Hannibal Free Public Library

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

August 31, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is the story of Mariam and Laila.  Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, these two Afghani women are brought together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them, they form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul , Afghanistan , the son of a diplomat whose family received political asylum in the United States in 1980. He currently lives in California where he is a physician.   

Discussion Questions:  

  1. The phrase, “a thousand splendid suns,” comes from the poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi.  Discuss its thematic significance.
  1. Mariam’s mother tells her: “Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.” Discuss how this sentiment informs Mariam’s life and how it relates to the larger themes of the novel.
  1. When Mariam realizes that Rasheed intends to marry Laila, she reacts with outrage. Given that Laila’s presence actually tempers Rasheed’s abuse, why is Mariam so hostile toward Laila?
  1. Laila’s friendship with Mariam begins when she defends Mariam from a beating by Rasheed. Why does Laila take this action, despite the contempt Mariam has consistently shown her?
  1. Growing up, Laila feels that her mother’s love is reserved for her two brothers.  What lessons from her childhood does Laila apply in raising her own children?
  1. At several points in the story, Mariam and Laila pass themselves off as mother and daughter. What is the symbolic importance of this subterfuge?   In what ways is Mariam’s and Laila’s relationship with each other influenced by their relationships with their own mothers?
  1. Discuss Laila’s relationship with her father. What aspects of his character does she inherit? In what ways is she different?
  1. Mariam refuses to see visitors while she is imprisoned, and she calls no witnesses at her trial. Why does she make these decisions?
  1. The driver who takes Babi, Laila, and Tariq to the giant stone Buddhas above the Bamiyan Valley describes the crumbling fortress of Shahr-e-Zohak as “the story of our country, one invader after another… we’re like those walls up there. Battered, and nothing pretty to look at, but still standing.” Discuss the metaphorical import of this passage as it relates to Miriam and Laila. In what ways does their story reflect the larger story of Afghanistan ’s troubled history?
  1. The first three parts of the novel are written in the past tense, but the final part is written in present tense. What do you think was the author’s intent in making this shift? How does it change the effect of this final section?

Questions adapted from:  http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/thousand_splendid_suns.html