I don't know about you, but I don't like long car trips. I mean, I REALLY don't like them. People ask me if I like to travel and I don't know what to tell them. I like being somewhere new, I just don't like getting there.
It occurred to me that I might be able to pass the time on my recent trip by borrowing an audio book from the library. Well, actually, I got a little overzealous and borrowed TWO audio books. You know, in case I might need 23 hours worth of narration to get me through.
Anyhoo, I only got to listen to one of them. Imagine my delight when I found A Thousand Splendid Suns on the new releases shelf. Its author, Khaled Hosseini, wrote one of my favorite books a couple of years ago (The Kite Runner).
I could not listen to it without comparing it to The Kite Runner. I had heard so many good things about it. That it was just as good if not better.
I enjoyed it, but it just didn't grab me like The Kite Runner did. I have decided that was a consequence of listening to someone else read it instead of being able to savor it a little more--to go back and reread parts that didn't sink in the first time.
I loved Mariam and Laila and how their relationship with one another and Rasheed evolved. One thing I like about Hosseini's writing is that he takes an area of the world and political events that I would not normally think I would be interested in reading about, and he weaves them together. He shows you what a real person's life might be like at that given point in time in Afghanistan.
I think we all know what it wouldn't be easy to be a woman in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, but this book forces the reader to follow the lives of two women and the constant reminders of what they are forced to be. I can't imagine having every stitch of my independence stripped away. I can't imagine having to depend on someone else to even be able to leave my house to go to the hospital. I can't imagine the life of a woman who has to rely on a man who takes every opportunity to abuse and "punish" her by refusing to escort her places. This is a book of great cruelty. This is also a book of great love and sacrifice and solidarity. It's full of three dimensional characters, but mostly among the "good guys".
It's hard to imagine a life where bombs whistling through the air are commonplace. A life that leaves you counting your blessings when you realize the bomb hasn't hit your house...this time, and a second later leaves you feeling guilty that you rejoiced that you weren't killed while someone a few streets over is digging pieces of his child's or mother's body out of the rubble. A life where someone is always lofting bombs and it doesn't matter their justification for it--the victims are dead all the same.
It's a book of sadness, mostly. I know it's supposed to leave the reader with a feeling of hope and of "moving on", but for me it wasn't enough hope to extinguish the grief it poured out earlier in the book.
I think that's good. It's good to be reminded that not everyone is as cozy as we are. It's good to feel that rather than just watch a vague news report with glazed over eyes, mostly unaware.