Reflections on Mariam and Laila: A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.

When Hosseini first narrates these words through Laila’s father, I thought, “how beautifully said. But why walls?”, but when I had reached the end, I finally understood what those walls may have been referring to.

That’s what I want to share with you all today – my admiration for Laila and Mariam’s relationship with one another.

The first time Laila and Mariam were in one room together was after Laila’s brothers had been killed. I had expected some sort of conversation to take place, for Mariam to ask if Laila is doing OK or to even pass a greeting of peace, but there was no mention of even a glance from one to the other. As I continued to read, I kept asking myself when they would finally cross each other’s paths, and my heart broke when I found out that it had to be through the death of Laila’s beloved parents. It had to be a tragic episode in her life which pulled her closer to another woman who would become a friend, a sister, a mother and a co-wife.

It was so difficult experiencing their pain, especially when that Rasheed would behave inhumane with his spiteful words and disturbing actions. The mere description of his thick fingers and tall, wide body made me shiver. There were times when I wanted to just step in and push him into a room and lock him in, screaming “GO” repeatedly to everyone else to seek refuge elsewhere. I just kept wishing for Tariq to come back sooner so they could have found their way out before they were imprisoned in their own home.

However, I was forced to accept the facts and forced again to live in their reality. Day in, day out I felt the relationship between Mariam and Laila strengthen like I have never seen or felt before. Their relationship is one of trust, reliance, loyalty, secrecy and most of all, faith.

In a climate of distress and calamity befalling them one after another, they were each other’s source of comfort and motivation to continue. I wonder how Laila’s life would have been if she was to bring up her children by herself. Mariam was a second mother to Aziza, Zalmai and Laila herself.

When Mariam was sentenced to death, Laila did not just lose a companion. She lost a part of herself, her greater and stronger half. She lost the one who inspired her and taught her many things about the world even after her passing. So much so that Mariam became the splendid suns that hid behind her walls.

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