A Thousand Splendid Suns is a tragic tale of two Afghani women. Like The Kite Runner, this novel is also set in Afghanistan but its time span is different i.e. the 1960s to 2000. Mariam is a teenage girl living with her nasty mother Nana, on the outskirts of the city Herat. Her father Jalil comes to visit her once a week. He lives in the main city and is a highly successful businessman. Mariam is an illegitimate child of his affair with Nana, thus he cannot afford to give her fully blossomed fatherly love which he gives to his other children and three wives that live with him.
On her fifteenth birthday, she insists her father that he must take her for Pinocchio movie in the city. When her father doesn’t come back to fulfill the promises, she takes up walking to the city – to the place of his father. Back at home, Nana thinks that Mariam has abandoned her hence in sheer depression she kills herself. Upon finding Mariam in the city, Jalil fears his dark secret may get exposed hence he refuses to accept her in his house. Having nowhere to go, she sleeps on a footpath. In the morning Jalil’s personal driver drops her back at home, where she finds her dead mother.
Following the funeral, Jalil and his family members have Mariam married with Rasheed, a widowed shoemaker who has lost a son long ago. Thus his expectations from Mariam are to give a birth to a son. Contrary to hopes Mariam suffers consecutive miscarriages. For this reason, Rasheed abuses her physically and mentally.
Another woman who suffers is Laila. She lives not so far from their home. When the war breaks out between Afghanistan and Russia her two brothers leave home to join it but soon news of their death disheartens the family. Laila has an affair with a boy called Tariq, he lives in the neighborhood. As the war approaches the city, Tariq and Laila make love because Tariq and his family are fleeing to Pakistan. When Laila and her family decide to leave the country a rocket falls in their home, killing her parents and wounding her. Now, she has nowhere to go.
Mariam and Rasheed take up Laila in their home and nurse her until she recovers fully. And at the same time, a stranger conveys the news of Tariq’s death. Forlorn and distraught by the loss of her loved ones, she reluctantly agrees to marry Rasheed. Initially, Mariam is upset with her presence but when she gives birth to a daughter Rasheed begins beating Laila as well. Seeing this, both women join up hands to defeat his patriarchal antagonism. After some years Laila gives birth to a son.
One fine day Tariq returns to see Laila. His visit exposed that Rasheed had set up the fake news of Tariq in order to espouse Laila. Soon in an effort to save Laila from the thrashing hands of Rasheed, Mariam kills him with a scythe. Laila and Tariq run away to Pakistan to start a new life, while on the other hand, Mariam hands herself to the Taliban.
After 9/11 attack when the USA enters Afghanistan, the powers of Taliban recedes and life condition seems to be improved. While on their way back to Kabul, Laila and Tariq visit the old home of Mariam and commemorates her sacrifice for making their lives convenient and meaningful. Laila is pregnant, and she vows to name her Mariam if the baby is a girl.