"A Thousand Splendid Suns," Vocabulary from Part 1

Khaled Hosseini shines the light on two Afghan women whose lives and goals merge through an abusive husband.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4-Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. culpable
    deserving blame or censure as being wrong or injurious
    She did not know what this word harami—bastard—meant. Nor was she old enough to appreciate the injustice, to see that it is the creators of the harami who are culpable, not the harami, whose only sin is being born.
  2. loathsome
    highly offensive; arousing aversion or disgust
    Mariam did surmise, by the way Nana said the word, that it was an ugly, loathsome thing to be a harami, like an insect, like the scurrying cockroaches Nana was always cursing and sweeping out of the kolba.
  3. demure
    shy or modest, often in a playful or provocative way
    Nana smiled demurely when he said this.
  4. snicker
    laugh quietly
    She waited until he had left the kolba, before snickering and saying, “The children of strangers get ice cream. What do you get, Mariam? Stories of ice cream.”
  5. wistful
    showing pensive sadness
    Mariam knew the story from Nana herself, and, though Nana dis­missed the episode, Mariam could tell by the wistful light in her eyes that she had been happy.
  6. recrimination
    mutual accusations
    Nana always gave a slow, burdened smile here, one of linger­ing recrimination or reluctant forgiveness, Mariam could never tell.
  7. gaunt
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    He was a gaunt, stooping old man with a toothless smile and a white beard that dropped to his navel.
  8. subdued
    quieted and brought under control
    Despite her rants against him when he wasn’t around, Nana was subdued and mannerly when Jalil visited.
  9. hijab
    a headscarf worn by Muslim women
    Her hair was always washed. She brushed her teeth, wore her best hijab for him. She sat quietly on a chair across from him, hands folded on her lap.
  10. coup
    a sudden and decisive change of government by force
    He was the one who told her in the summer of 1973, when Mariam was fourteen, that King Zahir Shah, who had ruled from Kabul for forty years, had been overthrown in a bloodless coup.
  11. malfunction
    fail to work properly
    “You know,” he said, “the picture quality isn’t that good. Nei­ther is the sound. And the projector’s been malfunctioning re­cently.
  12. forlorn
    marked by or showing hopelessness
    Jalil looked at her with a forlorn expression.
  13. citadel
    a stronghold for shelter during a battle
    Herat was visible from here, spread below her like a child’s board game: the Women’s Garden to the north of the city, Char-suq Bazaar and the ruins of Alexander the Great’s old citadel to the south.
  14. aggrieve
    infringe on the rights of
    She thought about going outside and looking for her, but she dreaded the confrontation, the aggrieved looks.
  15. opaque
    not transmitting or reflecting light or radiant energy
    With wonder, she ran her fingers over the beautiful marble horses that stood along the edge of the pool and gazed down at the water with opaque eyes.
  16. impassive
    having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
    She passed old vendors with leathery faces sitting under the shade of plane trees, gazing at her impassively behind pyra­mids of cherries and mounds of grapes.
  17. douse
    put out, as of a candle or a light
    For a moment, Mariam heard Nana’s voice in her head, mock­ing, dousing the deep-seated glow of her hopes.
  18. foreboding
    ominously prophetic
    She put her hands on the walls. They were so tall, so foreboding, Jalil’s walls.
  19. ordeal
    a severe or trying experience
    This . . . ordeal. . . must be very hard for you. So difficult.
  20. intimacy
    a feeling of being close and belonging together
    It was the thought of these intimacies in particular, which she imagined as painful acts of perversity, that filled her with dread and made her break out in a sweat.
  21. sinuous
    curved or curving in and out
    Her eyes traced the sleek shape of the table’s legs, the sinuous curves of its corners, the gleam of its reflective, dark brown surface.
  22. raspy
    unpleasantly harsh or grating in sound
    His harsh, raspy voice re­minded Mariam of the sound of dry autumn leaves crushed underfoot.
  23. ruddy
    inclined to a healthy reddish color
    In the mirror, Mariam had her first glimpse of Rasheed: the big, square, ruddy face; the hooked nose; the flushed cheeks that gave the impression of sly cheerfulness; the watery, bloodshot eyes; the crowded teeth, the front two pushed together like a gabled roof; the impossibly low hairline, barely two finger widths above the bushy eyebrows; the wall of thick, coarse, salt-and-pepper hair.
  24. havoc
    violent and needless disturbance
    She looked through the ill-fitting drawers, at the mismatched spoons and knives, the colander and chipped, wooden spatulas, these would-be instruments of her new daily life, all of it reminding her of the havoc that had struck her life, making her feel uprooted, displaced, like an intruder on someone else’s life.
  25. plaintive
    expressing sorrow
    This endless conversation, the tone plaintive but oddly cheerful, flew around and around in a circle.
  26. dote
    shower with love; show excessive affection for
    Husbands who doted on their mothers and wouldn’t spend a rupiah on them, the wives.
  27. suffer
    undergo or be subjected to
    Mariam wondered how so many women could suffer the same miserable luck, to have married, all of them, such dreadful men.
  28. embolden
    give encouragement to
    And then suddenly, as if emboldened, the other women pushed past Fariba and swarmed Mariam, forming a circle around her with alarming speed.
  29. hyperventilate
    breathe excessively hard and fast
    Mariam backed away. She was hyperventilating. Her ears buzzed, her pulse fluttered, her eyes darted from one face to another.
  30. imposing
    impressive in appearance
    This man’s will felt to Mariam as imposing and immovable as the Safid-koh moun­tains looming over Gul Daman.
  31. suffocate
    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    The loss of peripheral vision was unnerving, and she did not like the suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth.
  32. buffer
    protect from impact
    And the burqa, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like a one-way window. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers. She no longer worried that people knew, with a single glance, all the shameful secrets of her past.
  33. appeasement
    the act of acceding to demands
    They had been halfhearted tokens of penance, insincere, corrupt gestures meant more for his own appeasement than hers.
  34. undaunted
    unshaken in purpose
    Undaunted by the chilly weather, families had flooded the city on their frenetic rounds to visit relatives.
  35. queasy
    causing or able to cause nausea
    Mariam, who’d had a queasy stomach all night, boiled some water and made herself a cup of green tea sprinkled with crushed cardamom.
  36. disquiet
    make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed
    It was disquieting to her that Rasheed owned something whose sole purpose was to kill an­other person.
  37. unrelenting
    Then there were days when the dreariness didn’t seem quite as unrelenting to Mariam.
  38. vindication
    the act of defending against criticism or censure
    In these dreams, Nana cackled with delight and vindication.
  39. besiege
    harass, as with questions or requests
    Other days, Mariam was besieged with anger.
  40. foolhardy
    marked by defiant disregard for danger or consequences
    It was Rasheed’s fault for his premature celebration. For his foolhardy faith that she was carrying a boy. Naming the baby as he had. Taking God’s will for granted.
  41. harangue
    a loud bombastic declamation expressed with strong emotion
    But it did no good, all this fault laying, all these harangues of accusations bouncing in her head.
  42. sacrilege
    blasphemous behavior
    It was kofr, sacrilege, to think these thoughts. Allah was not spiteful. He was not a petty God.
  43. sustenance
    a source of materials to nourish the body
    “You make the night to pass into the day and You make the day to pass into the night, and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living, and You give sustenance to whom You please without measure.”
  44. volatile
    liable to lead to sudden change or violence
    She lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering even mundane exchanges down a confrontational path that, on occasion, he would resolve with punches, slaps, kicks, and sometimes try to make amends for with polluted apologies and sometimes not.
  45. infuriate
    make furious
    There was always something, some minor thing that would infuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him, no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants and demands, it wasn’t enough.

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