“It’s the whistling,” Laila said to Tariq, “the damn whistling, I hate more than anything.” Tariq nodded knowingly. It wasn’t so much the whistling itself, Laila thought later, but the seconds between the start of it and impact. The brief and interminable time of feeling suspended. The not knowing. The waiting. Like a defendant about to hear the verdict.
A well written book helps us step into the lives of people we do not understand, takes us to places we may never go otherwise, and if we are lucky we learn a little something along the way. In America we tend to look across the globe at the Middle East and shake our heads, we see what the nightly news shows us, the violence, the dusty landscape, the oil. Khaled Hosseini is a doctor who grew up in Kabul but was educated here in the United States, a world away from the turmoil in the country of his birth. When he began to write his first book, The Kite Runner, he stepped back into that distant world telling a tale focused on fathers and sons and friendship between men. In his new novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, we are again transported to Afghanistan and this time we experience life in Kabul through the eyes of two women, Mariam and Laila, from 1974 to the present. There are many good non-fiction books about life in the Middle East, but the beauty of a well written novel is its ability to lift us up and carry us along on a journey of imagination, a journey that allows us to live the lives of the characters in the story. That is what good storytelling does…and this book is good storytelling.