Years ago, I read Khaled Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner and found it to be one of the most engaging stories I had read to date. His prose would quickly draw you in, and you really felt like you were immersed in the lives of his characters. I also learned a bit about living in Afghanistan and Afghani culture in general, which I had known little to nothing about. I always wanted to read his follow-up book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, but other books ended up taking priority in my book queue. I finally thought about this book the other day, so I checked on NYPL via the Libby app and found that it was available for loan, so I had it sent electronically to my Kindle.
Well, similar to The Kite Runner, this book drew me in right away.. as in, right on the first page. I read about 20 percent of the book until I realized I had to stop. The book is basically a mother-daughter story that depicts in gory detail how little rights women had in the 1970s and the Taliban takeover, which made women’s’ lives even worse than they already were.
The start of the story goes like this: a housekeeper for a very wealthy businessman, who has three wives and many children with those wives, gets pregnant by the businessman. He lies and says that the housekeeper pushed herself on him and he had no choice; we all know that’s bullshit. The housekeeper gets pregnant and keeps the baby. But everyone in town knows that the father of the child is this businessman. So the businessman spends every Thursday afternoon just outside of town with the kid as she grows up. When she’s 15, she asks him to take her to the cinema in town that he owns. He reluctantly agrees, but he never shows up. Her mother warns her that if she goes into town looking for him, she will kill herself. The girl ignores her mom. She goes into town looking for him and sleeps outside his mansion, waiting for him to show up. The servants say he is out of town when she tries to run into the courtyard, and she sees that he is actually there all along and allowed her to sleep on the streets.
She eventually goes back home… to find out her mom was true to her word: she hung herself by the tree outside their home.
And that’s when I had to stop. I can’t read this kind of story anymore. To see men get away with their abuses, mistreating women, women putting down other women (the wives were jealous and didn’t want to have anything to do with the housekeeper, or even the girl after her other died), and knowing that Afghanistan is still being run by the Tailban today makes me sick. That’s on top of the fact that women’s rights are eroding right here in the U.S. is too much to handle. I used to be able to read books that were this heavy and remove myself from them, but now, I can’t any longer. Today, living in the U.S. feels like a dystopia. Plus, I’m a mother now myself, and I feel like I’ve become way more sensitive to everything as a result of this.
So I returned the book electronically and checked out a Japanese thriller in its place. Hopefully, that will be more fun.