Audiobook. Once again, Hosseini successfully creates a gripping story and brings to life an alien culture. The story begins before the Russians arrive, and ends after the American bombardment drives out the Taliban. The main characters are two women who are victims in countless ways of a tyrannical man whose power is greatly enhanced by the horrifying Taliban. Miriam is the illigitimate daughter of a wealthy man who visits her, but refuses to take her in and eventually allows his wife to marry her off to the villain of the book. When she is unable to bear him a son, he grows more and more unpleasant. He eventually takes another wife, a young woman orphaned by the jihadists, shelling Kabul after they have driven out the Russians. Laila, the young woman, willingly marries him as she realizes she is pregnant by her beloved childhood friend who has left Afghanistan to save his parents. The two women are devoted to each other and in the end Mariam makes the ultimate sacrifice for Laila and her two children.
Hearing this book brings me to a question I have pondered my whole adult life. How does it happen that half the population can treat the other half badly when their only difference is gender? They share values, names, children, homes, religious outlook, but in so many cultures women are regarded as a lower life form. I don't understand why men would want to share a life with someone they so despise. I recognize that people fall into cultural patterns even though the patterns are counterproductive, but how did it come to pass that this cultural pattern occurred. And in so many different cultures.