– Khaled Hosseini
A tale of two Muslim wives suffering under a tyrannical husband over the course of 30 years in late-century Afghanistan.
While the book is not bad, nor is it writing from a place of complete ignorance, I suspect the temporary amount of praise it got during its mid-aughts publication was largely an attempt at opportunistic political propaganda in the wake of the United States' armed incursions into the Middle East. The story slotted very neatly into what people wanted to believe of the place they were going to war with, but the story was just that: a story.
The invasions of Afghanistan were ill-fated and not aligned with the facts on the ground. No amount of propaganda was ever going to change that. During the American retreat from Afghanistan in mid-02021 and the quickly-following collapse of the viceroy government, the neoconservative elements of the mainstream media began baying wildly about the consequences. Of particular annoyance were the numerous “spontaneously appearing” opinion columns about the incoming rollback to women's rights under the renewed Taliban. This struck many as a disingenuous argument given how women's rights within Afghanistan never really improved during the American occupation in the first place. My thoughts turned to this book in the process. Like Animal Farm, I don't think it wanted to be used as a propaganda piece, but it happened anyway.
I looked on this book with suspicion at the time, perhaps even more than I do now given that the “war on terror” has come and gone. Indeed, I would not have even picked it up had my university bookstore not marked it down to 99 cents, which at least made it worth the price. Though this cheapness wasn't a subsidization of any particular agitprop; it was a faulty markdown because the last chapters of the book were misprinted on half the pages. I have no honest idea how this book ends.