A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini (Penguin), 384 pages, $34 cloth. Rating: NNN
Sometimes a powerful story can get in the way of crucial ideas.
So it is with Khaled Hosseini's compulsively readable follow-up to his much-loved debut novel, The Kite Runner.
Where The Kite Runner focused on the relationships between fathers and sons, A Thousand Splendid Suns sets its sights on the appalling conditions of women in Afghanistan during three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny.
After her mother commits suicide, illegitimate Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage with bully Rasheed. He eventually takes a second wife in the person of Laila, who's been orphaned by rocket fire, and embarks on a reign of abusive terror that bonds the two women for life.
In compellingly bold prose, Hosseini tells a sweeping tale that is also an intense indictment of patriarchal oppression guaranteed to make a serious dent in your kleenex supply.
But by the time you've brought your emotions under control - and noted the author's professional connections to the United Nations and his current residency in the U.S. - you'll realize that this book amounts to an elaborate apology for American military intervention in Afghanistan and, by extension, Canada's as well.
Beyond its evocation of the experience of women and, secondarily, of the country's beleaguered intellectuals, Suns paints a detailed picture of Afghanistan's history and daily life.
So why is the word "poppy" not mentioned even once?
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