How can such a tragic story be so beautiful? There were parts of this book that made me sick to my stomach to read. There were also such beautiful parts of this book that hit me straight in the heart and made me weep. Unfortunately, a general summary will not do this book justice, but hopefully it will inspire others to read it and engage in discussion. There are plenty of discussion points throughout the book.
Set between the years 1960-2000, Mariam and Laila are two women living across the street from each other (and then later within the same house) in Afghanistan. Mariam’s upbringing is heartbreaking, at best. Her mother is not mentally well and, as she is the product of an illegitimate relationship, Mariam’s father is absent and unavailable. In an arranged marriage with a man many years her senior (Rasheed), she moves into a house near Kabul and enters a life of one -sided devotion, fear, deprivation, and disappointment. Her house is down the street from a young girl, Laila, whose childhood best friend is a young boy (Tariq). As they grow, their relationship grows into a star crossed, teenage love tragedy when disaster strikes the city of Kabul and leaves their homes and street in literal ruins. With nowhere to turn, Laila is taken as a second wife of Rasheed in hopes of producing a child which is something that Mariam has been unable to provide. What begins as a relationship filled with jealousy and animosity turns into a deeply devoted friendship and sisterhood between the two women trapped in a destructive marriage with an abusive spouse that is not only legal but ignored by the Afghani government. As the stories of these women unfold, the reader is taken on an emotional roller coaster that keeps them on the edge of their seats anticipating the next twist or turn. Just when the reader thinks all hope is lost, a glimmer of light in the darkness signals hope and promises of a better future.
- Why I read it: Recommendation from a Facebook group
- Trigger warnings: Violence, domestic abuse, infidelity, infertility