A Thousand Splendid Suns: Plot Summary

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Plot Summary

Part One: Mariam

  • Mariam is an illegitimate child (a ‘harami’) born to a wealthy businessman, Jalil, and his housemaid, Nana. They live on the outskirts of Herat. Jalil’s legitimate wives and children reside in the city.

  • After Nana’s suicide, Mariam is taken to Jalil’s home in Herat. She is quickly married off to an older man, Rasheed, in Kabul to rid the family of her presence.

  • Mariam’s marriage to Rasheed is abusive. Her inability to bear him a child worsens their relationship.

Part Two: Laila

  • Laila is introduced as a neighbour and a well-educated girl, who enjoys the freedoms and luxuries that Mariam never had in her own childhood.

  • Laila shares a deep bond with Tariq, her best friend and first love. The fear of separation due to the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan looms over them.

  • After Taliban rockets kill her parents and severely wound her, Laila is taken in by Rasheed and Mariam. Unknown to Laila, Tariq and his family escape to Pakistan, but she is misled to think that he died.

  • Rasheed manipulates the situation, proposing marriage to the young and desperate Laila. She accepts upon discovering her pregnancy, thinking it to be Tariq’s child.

Part Three: Mariam and Laila

  • Mariam and Laila’s relationship transitions from hostile to one of deep sisterly affection. They share a common desire for freedom and dignity.

  • After years of harsh Taliban regime and mistreatment by Rasheed, the women see a potential escape when they learn that Tariq is alive and has returned. Laila and her children are reunited with him.

  • When their escape plan is unveiled, Rasheed violently attacks the women. Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel to save Laila.

  • Mariam sacrifices herself, insisting Laila, Tariq, and the children escape to Pakistan. She is arrested, sentenced to death, and executed by the Taliban.

Part Four: Rebuilding and Redemption

  • After the downfall of the Taliban, Laila and Tariq return to Kabul to rebuild their war-torn country. Laila starts teaching at an orphanage and gives birth to a daughter, who they name Mariam.

  • The novel concludes with a sense of hope and resilience amidst years of suffering and loss - a tribute to enduring love and sacrifice.