A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

About the book A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

‘A Thousand splendid Suns’ is a heart wrenching story written by Khaled Hosseini. It is brilliantly knitted story of events during the time of political tension from Soviet invasion to Taliban reign to the post-Taliban rebuilding and how two women survive against all these odds.


At first, the story starts with the childhood of the protagonist, Mariam. Mariam’s mother Nana worked as a housekeeper for a very wealthy businessman named Jalil. Jalil is also the father of Mariam but Jalil and Nana never married. Therefore, it makes Mariam an illegitimate child or harami. So to save themselves from humiliation, Jalil and his family banished Nana and Mariam to live in a small hut. Jalil visits Mariam weekly but the frequency of the visits fade out as Mariam grows older.

On her fifteenth birthday Mariam was promised a present from Jalil, a movie in the cinema hall in Herat. But, Jalil never turns up. So, she goes to visit Jalil.

However, when she arrives at Jalil’s place she gets to know that Jalil is not in town. Disappointed Mariam when returns to her house finds her mother has killed herself. Jalil and his three wives didn’t want to bear the responsibility of Mariam so they married her off to a shoemaker from Kabul, Rasheed. Rasheed is the embodiment of patriarchy. He wants a son desperately and beats Mariam who miscarries all her pregnancies. Infact, he also forces her to wear a floor length burka and cover her face at all times in front of strangers.Mariam met Fariba and Hakim who were their very modern and liberal neighbours.

The Intro of second lead

The second protagonist, Laila, is the daughter of Hakim and Fariba. She goes to a nearby school for education but, as tensions arise in Kabul she has to leave school. She also has a very close friend named Tariq. These two young children, Laila and Tariq, are in love and get physically intimate before Tariq and his family leave for Pakistan. Laila’s family also decide to leave. They are about to leave when a bomb is dropped on their house which kills Hakim and Fariba but only injures Laila. Rasheed takes care of Laila.

One day a news arrives that Tariq died in a hospital in Pakistan. This was a lie. Rasheed forged it to court Laila for marriage. Laila accepts the marriage proposal only because she is pregnant with Tariq’s child and wants to deceive Rasheed. Laila gives birth to a girl who is named Aziza. Rasheed doesn’t treat her well and tells that he knows she is Tariq’s daughter.

Mariam and Laila who didn’t start on great terms now become good friends and also, stand by each other’s side. During this time, the Taliban take control. Rasheed is very happy because they strictly implemented all the rules Rasheed had always followed. Like women have to cover themselves, no education or jobs for women and that women can only go out of the house with a male relative. These extremely patriarchal norms were now laws that made life of women tougher than it was. Mariam and Laila tried to flee the country but failed. When returned back to Rasheed he tortured them as punishment for leaving him.

The unexpected turn

Later, Laila gets pregnant with Rasheed’s child and gives birth to a boy who is named Zalmai. Rasheed favors Zalmai over Aziza. Rasheed’s shop burns and they have no income to live on and have to starve. Rasheed sends Aziza away to an orphanage. One day Tariq returns which uncovers the truth and exposes Rasheed’s forged lie that Tariq didn’t actually die. Zalmai tells Rasheed about Laila and Tariq meeting. Rasheed then beats her and chokes her when she retaliates. To protect Laila and herself, Mariam beats Rasheed on the head with a shovel. Laila and Mariam dispose off the body. Laila, Aziza and Zalmai leave for Pakistan with Tariq. But, Mariam refuses to go with them.

She sacrifices her life and takes the blame of killing her husband so that Laila and Tariq can live happily. Laila and Tariq marry in Pakistan and Mariam is publicly executed for murdering her husband . Both of them, Laila and Tariq, return to Afghanistan along with their children after the Taliban are overthrown and peace is restored. Laila teaches at an orphanage and is again pregnant. She decides to name the child Mariam if it’s a girl.

Final Point – A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

This deeply moving story is excellently narrated and transports the reader to the very uneasy time in Afghanistan. The story manages to connect to the readers with its very human themes of love, friendship and family. 

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