If “Kite Runner” was about boys growing up in Afghanistan, this is about the women in Afghanistan. The protagonists of the book are women and the author had done great job writing from a women’s perspective, total 415 pages.
I have read two books in a row that follows the same time period first one from India, second from Afghanistan..
The story begins in a small hut beyond the outskirts of the town of Hirat. The girl’s name was Mariam, she calls her mom Nana. She was brought up by her mom until she turns 15.She was an illegitimate daughter of a rich businessman, Jalil Khan, who already has three wives and nine children. Her mom was a cook in his house and falls to a disgrace when she bears Mariam, due to the societal pressure her father builds them a house away from the town beyond a running stream. He visits Mariam and her mother religiously every Thursday of the week, Mariam worships her father and hopes one day he would include them in his family and could live in the same house as him and his other wives and children. She finds her mom very spiteful and one day against her mom’s wish she goes into Hirat to meet her father at his house. She was not allowed in his house and she stays outside overnight and that was when she realizes that what her mom told her all these years were true. That she was not welcome. When she returns to the home where mom lives a deeply impacting incident happens so she was taken back to live in her father’s house where her life change’s forever.
Jalil Khan, father of Mariam was a very nice character. He tries to be good man but he is controlled by his status in the society and his family his actions have advert consequences in Mariam’s life. He later towards the end realizes how all those status for the society did not matter. He sends a video tape of the cartoon Pinocchio that Mariam longed to see in his theater and she never had that chance then. When I read that part, I had tears in my eyes.
Rasheed Mariam’s husband was the actual villain in the book. Afghans with patriarchal societies they hold woman in the family in a pedestal at the same time they do not give them voice, no authority, no independence and treat them more like a third rate citizen. That was what this Rasheed Character exactly does. He was a product of the society, I pity that character.
Then Laila’s father who was a teacher that wanted women to study, get educated and hold office. At one point he even says when the communist ruled Afghanistan that was the best time for women in Afghanistan where they encouraged all girls should go to school and colleges.
The main characters did not have say on their life’s decisions; When Mariam got married to a man some 25 years older to her. The women cannot even step outside the house without a male relative. Women could not go to school. Taliban separated the hospitals for male patients and female patients. The hospital for female patients does not have basic medical supply to do a surgery. No anesthesia, no post surgery antibiotics, they write this on prescription where patient families has to run to other part of the town and still would not get it, with the country under the control of Taliban. When Laila had to deliver her breached baby they had to do a C Section without anesthesia. This was true, this was happening in Afghanistan, the author was part of UNHCR and he had heard from many doctor’s during his visit to Afghanistan where they have said many horror stories of how they had to do amputation without anesthesia.
My favorite part of the book was when Laila’s father takes Laila and Tariq on a day trip to Bamiyan valley to show them the Buddha statues, the culture, heritage of Afghanistan that existed before it was all bombed by the Talibans. I have read about these Buddha statues in “I am Malala” I think the world lost something precious when Taliban bombed those Buddha statues.