A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini.

Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on the lives of Miriam and Laila, two young women who end up in one another’s lives in Kabul. Miriam grew up outside of Herat, where she lived with her mother in a cabin. One day, while she’s visiting her father’s house in town, her mother commits suicide. Miriam goes to live with her father’s family, where she stays for a couple of weeks. Then, her father’s family marries her to Rasheed, a shoemaker who lives in Kabul. Rasheed mistreats Miriam, who has multiple miscarriages. Her inability to give him a son only makes him treat her worse, creating a vicious cycle that Miriam can’t escape.

Meanwhile, on the night that the communists in Afghanistan have a coup to take over Daoud Khan’s government, Laila is born to Fariba. Laila’s father, Hakim, is a scholar. He teaches Laila history and poetry, which is encouraged by the new communist regime. When we meet Laila, she is nine and the best friend of Tariq, the son of a local carpenter. Tariq has only one leg.

When Kabul is attacked by the Mujahideen, Tariq’s parents arrange to leave the city. Laila’s family is also making plans to leave, but before they can leave, they are killed in a bombing. Laila survives. Miriam and Rasheed take her in, and Laila, who is pregnant with Tariq’s child, is nursed back to health in Rasheed’s home. Rasheed sees that she’s pregnant, and hoping her child will be a boy, he plots to have someone tell her that Tariq has perished so Laila will marry him. After receiving this misinformation, Laila agrees, becoming Rasheed’s second wife.

While she is pregnant, Rasheed treats Laila well. She gives birth to a daughter, who is named Aziza. Rasheed continues to treat Laila well through her second pregnancy with his child, a boy. Their son is named Zalmai. After his birth, Rasheed’s treatment of Laila deteriorates until Miriam and Laila try to run away. Their escape attempt is foiled, and they’re sent back to Rasheed, who retaliates by locking Laila away for two days and refusing to give her food.

Life in Kabul gets worse and worse. With war and drought, Rasheed, Miriam, Laila, and the two children are having trouble making ends meet. They give Aziza away to a local orphanage because they can no longer afford to feed and take care of her. Outside, as the political climate continues to worsen, Rasheed’s temper makes life at home for Laila and Miriam more and more difficult.

Everything changes when Tariq arrives in Kabul. Zalmai spots him waiting for Laila across the street, but Miriam takes Zalmai upstairs so that Tariq and Laila can catch up. Later, Zalmai tells Rasheed of Tariq’s return and visit with Laila. Furious, Rasheed locks Zalmai in his room and beats Laila. Though she tries to fight him off, Rasheed is stronger than her and manages to pin her by the neck. Miriam enters the fray by hitting Rasheed with a shovel. The first hit merely stuns him, so she hits him again—and this time kills him.

Laila tries to convince Miriam that this is the perfect time to run away, but Miriam is determined that she should take responsibility for her actions. She turns herself in. Miriam knows that if they run away, Laila and the children will be endangered, as well as her. If she turns herself in, she is the only one who will be endangered. Miriam goes to trial, and is sentenced to death because the judge determines that he cannot forgive her crime—only Allah can.

After Miriam is executed, Tariq and Laila take Aziza and Zalmai. They go to Pakistan, where Tariq has a job. They live life peaceably there, until the World Trade Center is attacked in the United States on September 11, 2001. The United States then declares war on Afghanistan, and eventually removes the Taliban from power. After that, Laila tells Tariq that she wants to return to Afghanistan, because by living there and contributing there with their lives, they can honor Miriam’s memory.

They return first to Herat, where Miriam was from. Laila finds a box with a letter and money for Miriam—her inheritance. She and Tariq donate Miriam’s inheritance to an orphanage in Kabul. Laila and Tariq discover that Laila is pregnant again, and the book ends with the family trying to think of names for the baby if it’s a boy. Laila already knows that if it’s a girl, she’ll name her after Miriam.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini has received accolades from critics and readers alike.