This is, for the most part, a compelling, affecting and, at times, devastating novel of what it was like to live as a woman in Afghanistan for the last quarter century or so of the 20th century. It is particularly effective of giving insight into the men who hate women – into an entire society that hates women. Fortunate as I am to have been born in Toronto, and raised by a strong, intelligent career woman, it continues to boggle my mind that there are so many men in the world who blame and punish women for their own faults, failings and disappointments. The problems of our world have a lot to do with angry men.
I have a few minor issues:
The first is really nitpicky: By using non-English words in dialogue and then accompanying them with their English equivalents, Hosseini’s dialogue is sometimes stilted and unnatural. Better to have a glossary at the back, I think. But this is really nitpicky.
The bigger issue involves a major SPOILER.
Though I appreciate the poetic justices in this novel, and though I definitely wanted them to happen on a visceral level, I find such blatant poetic justice to be unnatural and too cute. Though this novel is about how Afghans (Afghan women in particular) have struggled and endured over the decades of strife, it feels wrapped up with little bow, whether it be Mariam taking charge of her life and finally making decisions for herself (freeing Laila and becoming a martyr) or Laila managing to get closure with Mariam’s benefactor’s family and coming back to work for the one man (other than Tariq) who was nice to her. I think the novel is less effective because of these narrative niceties. A better novel wouldn’t have such a perfect resolution. It is, after all, about a real situation.
But still worth your time.