Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Friday, December 28, 2007

I don't typically do book reviews

My dear friend, Elaine, gave me A Thousand Splendid Suns on Christmas Eve. It's the new book by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, which I haven't read 'cause I've been a real slacker in keeping up with literature. Anywho, I finished the book yesterday. It was such a moving and eye-opening novel.

Even though I've traveled to the region, I've learned I don't know much about Central Asian culture and religion or the wars that have ravaged that region for generations. This book is set specifically in Afghanistan. I have friends who have traveled there; I know people who are laboring there, even now. I get their weekly or monthly emails and newsletters. But it's so different experiencing the culture from a native's perspective; hearing about what they've had to shoulder over the years.

This book broke down stereotypes that, despite my first-hand cultural knowledge and experience, I didn't realize was there. Reading of the horrors these women endured broke my heart. True, they're fictional characters, but their story is so true. There are people my age who lived through the communist take-over, then their defeat. They celebrated when they witnessed their invaders leaving their home, but then they were heart-broken when the sectarian fighting erupted, pinning them once again in the middle of war. They froze in fear at the sound of rockets and bullets exploding overhead. They lost homes, loved-ones, and the familiarity of their communities. Then the joy of the Taliban crushing the warlords was short-lived, as we all now know. All of this within the past three decades, within my lifetime, and I never fully understood it or knew of it.

A Thousand Splendid Suns has a happy ending; a hopeful ending. And I sure am a sucker for a good story with a happy ending, even though I know life doesn't always turn out that way. But it's not the typical Hollywood happy ending. It may seem like it is at first glance -- people struggling and in pain, enduring one thing after another, hope is in the horizon and then it's crushed again and again, until it finally does come and stays. That's exactly what happens, but what makes it different is it's REAL. These are real people, a real nation, who have been torn apart by war. Yet hope is still alive, as long as they are still alive, despite all the devastation over the years.

I forget how lucky we are here in America, or The West, if you will. It's easy to get pulled into the mundane, everyday life. And it's not bad that our lives here are vastly different from someone's on the other side of the world. It's easy for me to feel guilty, to think there's something I need to be doing. I suppose the best thing I can do, what we all can do, is to remember. And pray. And give thanks for what we have.

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