Friday, June 17, 2022

A Thousand Splendid Suns Synopsis

Photo by Philip Newton

Music by Sheila Silver
Libretto by Stephen Kitsakos
Adapted from the novel by Khaled Hosseini

Fifteen-year-old Mariam, the cast-off bastard child of a rich father, is forced to leave her rural home after her mother’s suicide and marry a middle-aged shoemaker from Kabul named Rasheed. Alone, scared and forced to wear the burqa, something unfamiliar to her, she tries her best to be a dutiful wife but is unable to conceive a child. Consequently, she lives a loveless existence with a husband who abuses her regularly for her failure to give him a son.

Years later, as competing factions of sectarian warlords secure a stranglehold on Kabul, a bomb explodes in Mariam’s neighborhood killing the parents of fourteen-year-old Laila, a modern, educated, ravishing beauty. Rasheed brings the wounded girl to his home and Mariam, reluctantly, nurses her back to health. Rasheed, now a sixty-year old man, schemes to get Laila to marry him by concocting a story that her beloved fiancĂ©e, Tariq, who was forced to flee to Pakistan with his parents, has been killed. Laila, secretly carrying Tariq’s child, agrees to marry Rasheed, hoping to create a safe haven for the child.

At first Mariam is cold to Laila, but gradually the women bond over Laila’s baby, a girl named Aziza, as well as their hatred of Rasheed, who abuses them physically and psychologically. Eventually the Taliban rise to power and life in Kabul becomes more oppressive. When the two wives and Aziza attempt a daring escape from the city they are caught at the Kabul central bus station, escalating Rasheed’s abuse and anger. Although Laila eventually gives Rasheed the son he has always wanted, the violence continues.

The turning point comes when Tariq, Laila’s beloved, returns to Kabul and finds her. Rasheed learns of Tariq’s visit to the house and in an act of extreme rage begins to strangle Laila. Mariam, refusing to stand silent, saves Laila’s life by hitting Rasheed on the head with a shovel, killing him.

Mariam convinces Laila to flee with Tariq and Laila’s two children. She will remain behind to take responsibility for killing Rasheed, knowing that she will be sentenced to death. As Mariam walks to her execution, an understanding of her life brings her a sense of selfworth and spiritual peace: she has loved and been loved. She saved Laila’s life and has lived a life of consequence. She knows that Allah will forgive her.

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