Mariam lived with her mother on the outskirts of Herat Her father would visit her every so often to play with her and spend time with her.
Mariam’s mother had her out of wedlock, her father who had 3 wives and 9 other children was ashamed of them and so built them a house on the outskirts. Out of sight out of mind, but he continues to visit when he had the time.
However, tragedy strikes one day and Mariam had to pack her bags and go and live with her father. She did not feel welcome there, it was such a big house compared to what she was used too. It did not help that her stepmothers were jealous of her.
When she was 15 years old, the wives called Mariam down for a discussion with her father. A man was coming all the way from Kabul to marry her, someone she had never met before and was at least 30 years her senior. Mariam was to marry him and then leave on the bus with him back to Kabul.
She pleaded with her father not to let her go through with it but he made no hesitation.
After about a week Mariam got set to work on the tasks that Rasheed would expect her to do, for example, clean the house, prepare dinner and have it on the table ready for when he came home. She fell into the routine nicely, Rasheed took her out and bought her nice things and their relationship flourished nicely until Mariam could not bore him a child.
War was coming closing to Kabul, the Taliban were closing in. It was a terrible time, bombs were constantly going off.
A young girl found herself in hospital, she was getting ready to leave this country and make to Pakistan with her parents. She would meet her best friend Tariq and everything would be fine, however, she was all alone. Rasheed paid for her medicine, took her in and looked after her until she was better.
Rasheed informed Mariam that he would take this young girl who was 15 years old as his new wife, as people were talking and it would be dishonourable. Laila the young girl accepted a bit too quickly but was there an alternative reason for that?
Mariam and Laila did not get on very well, Mariam was jealous of the attention Rasheed was giving Laila, taking her out, buying her things like he used to do for her, but in a turn of events they developed a kinship in each other and vowed one day to be free.
As the Taliban began to take over, rules for women were too much, they were not allowed to walk on the street unless a male relative was present, reading and writing was banned, as were many others. Just what were women meant to do? Nothing, precisely nothing. If you were caught doing any of these you would be beaten, and Laila was caught, but she refused to give up.
People were losing their jobs, water was drying up and the food was becoming less and less – it was horrible.
A Thousand Splendid Suns has a great storyline. As we follow Mariam and Laila’s story we feel sorry for them. The schooling and education that they had seemed to be pointless and it was like there were only born to serve the men. However, times are changing, and I believe now in Saudi Arabi women are now allowed to drive.
A great, courageous story of bravery and survival in a male-dominated country.