This is Hosseini’s third novel, and quite possibly, his best. I cannot be sure, because it has taken him a very long time since writing his second book to get this one out there, and I read the other two pretty much when they came out. I loved The Kite Runner. It taught me so much about the recent history of Afghanistan, and told a fabulous, if heartbreaking, story. I loved that so much that A Thousand Splendid Suns felt like a much less subtle let-down. Luckily he got his mojo back in time for book number three.
My absolute must-have when it comes to fiction is characters who are complex and deep and have good points and bad points. Even though they strive to do good, sometimes they do things that may be deemed bad, and sometimes they make mistakes. Because that is how real people are. It sounds obvious but I find so many novels where I do not fully understand a character’s motivation, or I answer the tradition English teacher question of “why did so-and-so do such-and-such” with “to move the story along.” I feel as if I am fully involved with the journey of Hosseini’s characters, and each one is as flawed and believable as a real person.
I preferred the first two thirds of the books to the last third. I most enjoyed the parts set in 1950s and 1960s Afghanistan. Again, he was teaching me a little about this country and it’s people. There are also Afghan-American characters, and he touches a little on their complexity of feeling about their homeland. We go from the ’50s through to present day, from Afghanistan to France, Greece and the US.
The epitaph of this novel is “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” So, now you know what it is about. Well, it is about family, too, but then all of Hosseini’s books seem to be. The books opens with a fable that beautifully illustrates why what happens to shape the story happens. A man feels he must break up his family in order to save it. We cannot know if it is the right decision, or the wrong decision, but it is a decision. The book is mostly about the consequences.