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Rachel-K
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First Impressions

Hosseini opens this novel -- which introduces us to and defines so many terms and concepts -- with the introduction of the term harami. What note does this begin us on? What else struck you about the first chapter? What do we understand about Mariam from this opening sequence?
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IBIS
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Re: First Impressions

I was gripped by the very first sentence: "Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami." (bastard). It's also the first time that I, as a reader, was introduced to the Afghanistani word. I felt immediate sympathy for her; the author made clear the injustice of the word--that is wasn't her fault that she was harami, but the creators (her parents) of it.

Mr Hosseini writes crystal clear images of Mariam's life. He described her in such kind, generous words that I immediately fell in love with her character.

The descriptions of Mariam and Nana, their life together in the kolba (hut) are so sharply drawn, the details so specific, that Mariam came alive, breathed as a real person, before I even got to page 5.

Nana's character is clearly described within a few sentences. I immediately grasped how her miserable personal history shaped her cynicism. I knew her well enough to be able to predict how her cynicism would affect Mariam's upbringing.

I thought of the helplessness of this sweet little girl born into this merciless misogynist culture. I was hooked, and I couldn't put the book down til I raced to the end of her story.
IBIS

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babobin
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Re: First Impressions

The book managed to catch your attention from the first sentence. I didn't know the meaning of the word harami but I knew it wasn't nice and that this little girl had to overcome a lot. It’s amazing that with one sentence Khaled Hosseini manages to generate sympathy and makes the reader want to more about this girl.
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



babobin wrote:
The book managed to catch your attention from the first sentence. I didn't know the meaning of the word harami but I knew it wasn't nice and that this little girl had to overcome a lot. It’s amazing that with one sentence Khaled Hosseini manages to generate sympathy and makes the reader want to more about this girl.




Yes, it does hypotizes every wandering thought that was getting away from you. How theauthor can captivate his readers to the point that reading his words takes all your senses to where you do not let go of one thought while reading. I couldn't stop until I was well into half of the book.

And the first chapter, after reading it, I knew this little girl had a tough road ahead of her. Why would the author mention this name so early? You knew, if nothing else that this little girl had a tough life ahead of her. After you read the country it takes place in,this word did not play well in this part of the world.
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Puffjelo
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Re: First Impressions

What I found fascinating was the contrast between Mariam and her Nana. Nana has lived a life of emptiness, her spirit shattered and her life's experiences leading her to look at all new experiences through a lens of cynicism. Remarkably, despite being brought up surrounded by that negativity, Mariam grows up so full of life and hope. She still feels like she can go anywhere, be anything. She believes that her father will come and take her (and Nana) away from their horrible life and make them part of his "real" family. Not even the vicious comments made by Nana can bring her down.

Was this naivete? Or just hope? Probably a bit of both, I think.

Of course, it's just this very fact that her spirit was able to triumph over everything she and her mother dealt with that makes all of the events which happen to her later all the more painful...
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Librarian2
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Re: First Impressions

I read the book quickly, because it is such a page-turner and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. I now need to read it again to really appreciate it.

My first thoughts were:

a) for a man, the author does a good job of getting inside women's minds, and

b) that the simplicity of his prose in places is the most effective way of highlighting the gross injustice of the way women are treated in Afghanistan. I wanted to shout out at the unfainess of it all. I often shout at the TV, but it isn't often a book makes me want to!

I must now read The Kite Runner...
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



Puffjelo wrote:
What I found fascinating was the contrast between Mariam and her Nana. Nana has lived a life of emptiness, her spirit shattered and her life's experiences leading her to look at all new experiences through a lens of cynicism. Remarkably, despite being brought up surrounded by that negativity, Mariam grows up so full of life and hope. She still feels like she can go anywhere, be anything. She believes that her father will come and take her (and Nana) away from their horrible life and make them part of his "real" family. Not even the vicious comments made by Nana can bring her down.

Was this naivete? Or just hope? Probably a bit of both, I think.

Of course, it's just this very fact that her spirit was able to triumph over everything she and her mother dealt with that makes all of the events which happen to her later all the more painful...




I thought it was surprising that Mariam wasn't bitter and cynical like her Mom too. She had like a ray of sunshine that surrounded her. She knew things would work out for her. Her mother tried so hard to get her down to her level of thinking. Maybe it could have been better for her if she wasn't quite so enthusiated and just alittle more cautious with her heart. It was like you wanted to warn her, watch out Miriam, you heart will break in pieces. I really feel that is why her Mom was so cynical, she eithr had been like Miriam and had terrible heartbreak or she was cynical and bitter, as to not to be hurt ever again. And it could have been both. I hope Miriam doesnt turn out that way.
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



Librarian2 wrote:
I read the book quickly, because it is such a page-turner and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. I now need to read it again to really appreciate it.

My first thoughts were:

a) for a man, the author does a good job of getting inside women's minds, and

b) that the simplicity of his prose in places is the most effective way of highlighting the gross injustice of the way women are treated in Afghanistan. I wanted to shout out at the unfainess of it all. I often shout at the TV, but it isn't often a book makes me want to!

I must now read The Kite Runner...




Yes, I read the book that fast too, I haven't finished it but I was over half finished before I could pause and put it down. It was a real page turner and that is the way Kite Runner was also. He is a definite wonderful storyteller. His books are bound to be classics someday.
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IBIS
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Re: First Impressions: Inside characters heads

Hosseini definitely is a master at capturing the essentials of his characters, either male or female. In the Kite Runner, his main characters are male, and he zeroes in on specifics, sharp details, that made Amir become "real" to me. No frills, no nonsense, just sharply polished prose that shine like jewels.

The same can be said of A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both Mariam and Nana are female characters who come alive because they are very lovingly written. He obviously loves them all, male and female, and he describes them -- their physical traits, their emotional responses -- in generous, loving prose.

What is so remarkable about this writer is that he writes old-fashioned novels-- stories with plots that have beginning, middle and ends; and yet his sensibility is very contemporary. He observes them, their flaws and imperfections, with a generosity of spirit.

We can't help but fall in love with Mariam (and eventually Laila).
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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PB684
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Re: First Impressions

Librarian2 wrote:
that the simplicity of his prose in places is the most effective way of highlighting the gross injustice of the way women are treated in Afghanistan. I wanted to shout out at the unfainess of it all. I often shout at the TV, but it isn't often a book makes me want to!



I did shout out while reading such passages!
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lasharp24
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Re: First Impressions

My initial disaapontment with Nana was her cynicism, and how she constantly tried to discourage Miriam and squash her dreams. However, when I got further into the story, I couldn't help but admire Nana for her commitment to her daughter in trying to draw her the real picture of women's destiny in their world. Maybe Miriam would have been less a victim had she been a little more guarded. However, how does one suffocate dreams of one so young and full of idealism.

I also think that Mariam idealized her father, not for who he truly was, but fantasized about him as a means of escape from Nana's constant cynicism.
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Chaser
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Re: First Impressions

I think I am struck by the critical environment that Mariam is destined to grow up in. She is a child, immature and excited to see her father, fumbling with the tea set - and when I see Nana's reaction, I know she does not deserve the condescension with which she is treated. It seems she is the easy object of blame, almost like a vicarious punching bag that Nana can beat on (verbally) instead of Jalil.

Nana obviously has some severe problems of her own: her own mother died when she was two, she has a physical disability that resembles epilepsy, she has a lazy eye, and she is alone in the middle of nowhere raising a child by herself. All of these obstacles make her understandably miserable. It is just hard to see a child subjected to some of these tongue lashings. It is very disturbing to hear Nana call her own child a "bastard" in the heat of the moment - literally as a punishment. This communicates to me that Mariam really is not safe or accepted by anyone (though it is not her fault). I know my hopes rise on Jalil to "save" Mariam, and I feel her disappointment when she realizes he does not accept her either.

I think many children with enthusiasm and potential grow up in very negative, critical environments that literally erode their spirits. Sometimes the harshness of life is too much for parents not to take out on their children, but because I have seen this happen before in other families, I can identify with what Mariam is going through. Nana can only see her qualities as negatives, though they could be seen as endearing in another context.

From the beginning of the book, I think Mariam is reduced to a title - a "harami." I know Rasheed uses the term against her later. It seems that she is a victim of traditional concepts from the start and is never allowed to just be a person. She is categorized from day one, and she is forever in the wrong category.
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Mockingbird
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Re: First Impressions

Mariam is a wonderful example of the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. Neither her mother's cynicism, her father's betrayal, the loss of her babies, nor the cruelty of her husband can annihilate her capacity for life. I admire the way Hosseini captures her essence: a flawed human being capable of the most profound acts of courage and self-sacrifice. Nothing I have ever read has given me such an appreciation for the suffering of women in radical cultures. And Mariam has to be one of my favorite characters ever!
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



Mockingbird wrote:
Mariam is a wonderful example of the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. Neither her mother's cynicism, her father's betrayal, the loss of her babies, nor the cruelty of her husband can annihilate her capacity for life. I admire the way Hosseini captures her essence: a flawed human being capable of the most profound acts of courage and self-sacrifice. Nothing I have ever read has given me such an appreciation for the suffering of women in radical cultures. And Mariam has to be one of my favorite characters ever!




Yes, it does indicate with all their government take overs that no matter who dominates the people, the women seemed to have the worst consequences. How very sad this book was. I really loved Mariam also. She was such a strong character in the story.
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Reede
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Re: First Impressions

I read a hopefulness in Mariam's spirit in the first chapter that faded as the book progressed. The author definitely has an insight into women. Is this typical of Afghani men?

I tried to put aside my Western viewpoint when reading about the choice of clothing. Would they find our customs oppressive under the pressure to always look perfect in makeup and dress, to have the perfect coiffure? Do we have our own berkas?

But, the one word for Rasheed that clung to him throughout the book....PIG.
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Mariposa
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Re: First Impressions

I felt Nana was trying to protect Miriam from disappointment. Perhaps she didn't do it in the most delicate way, but I think she was sincere. Nana knew what life for Miriam was going to be like and did her best. I also was angry with her at the beginning, but after reading the book, I understood why she did what she did and was able to forgive her.
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



Reede wrote:
I read a hopefulness in Mariam's spirit in the first chapter that faded as the book progressed. The author definitely has an insight into women. Is this typical of Afghani men?

I tried to put aside my Western viewpoint when reading about the choice of clothing. Would they find our customs oppressive under the pressure to always look perfect in makeup and dress, to have the perfect coiffure? Do we have our own berkas?

But, the one word for Rasheed that clung to him throughout the book....PIG.




That is the best word in the whole English American Dictionaries I can think of for that low life Rasheed. You cannot let some one have full power over some one else. You got to have some one that will check up. That is, women had no authories, no outlet what so ever. I can't imagine what that was like! And I hope I never do!
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



dianearbus wrote:
I felt Nana was trying to protect Miriam from disappointment. Perhaps she didn't do it in the most delicate way, but I think she was sincere. Nana knew what life for Miriam was going to be like and did her best. I also was angry with her at the beginning, but after reading the book, I understood why she did what she did and was able to forgive her.




You are right, dianearbus, Miriam was very stubborn I believe, She didn't want to believe that her Dad could betray her. If only, the mother hadn't of talked so badly about the dad, then Miriam might have listened to her more. It was a very sad book! But a wonderful story.
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Mariposa
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Re: First Impressions

I found the book more than sad. I found it numbing at times. And that made it difficult for me to read. There were just too many beatings. Well, you might say, that is the reality of it. Yes,that might be true, but at some point, too much can lose the reader entirely. I thought the descriptions of the beatings, the sufferings were too detailed, too graphic. I understand that the author might want the reader to have a strong sense of the results of living in a situation where women are deprived of all rights, but too much sometimes makes people turn away instead of confront what is happening. I did finish the book but in all honesty, I don't think I would recommend it. Perhaps after these conversations, I might change my mind. Perhaps.

Lizabeth
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kiakar
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Re: First Impressions



dianearbus wrote:
I found the book more than sad. I found it numbing at times. And that made it difficult for me to read. There were just too many beatings. Well, you might say, that is the reality of it. Yes,that might be true, but at some point, too much can lose the reader entirely. I thought the descriptions of the beatings, the sufferings were too detailed, too graphic. I understand that the author might want the reader to have a strong sense of the results of living in a situation where women are deprived of all rights, but too much sometimes makes people turn away instead of confront what is happening. I did finish the book but in all honesty, I don't think I would recommend it. Perhaps after these conversations, I might change my mind. Perhaps.

Lizabeth




dianearbus; I feel your pain as I also ache after reading this book. I feel this is the reason the author does put alot of emphasis on the beatings and mistreatment of the two women. With feelings of deep empathy maybe by reading the book we can someway stop this kind of abuse or pray for it to stop. Anything but do nothing. If we didn't want to read about it, imagine, getting the beating, imagine cowarding in a corner like a mischievous dog of somekind. Imagine not knowing when the next hit will come. But formost imagine, there is no one, that is no one , not a human body that can stop this abuse. Because, its ok, for men to do anything they want to women in this country. Is is still that way?
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