Title: And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
No. of Pages: 384
Origins: My darling friend, Julie
Release Date: 21 May 2013
Bottom Line: A simple and beautiful story
“Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and step-mother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Adbullah, Pari, as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named, is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their skulls touching, their limbs tangled.
One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand. Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways that we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history, and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.”
Thoughts: Mr. Hosseini’s latest novel is not flashy. It is not suspenseful, nor is it action-packed. Its pacing is methodical. The characters are simple, and in some cases even simplistic. What And the Mountains Echoed does is paint a picture. It paints a picture of a land beleaguered by hundreds of years of poverty and war. It showcases a population in which the have-nots make up the majority, but the haves are the ones with all of the power as well as all of the wealth. It tells of a people forced to flee their homeland or risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones. It describes a culture struggling to maintain its identity in a world that condemns it for its past wrongs. Simply told but profoundly poignant, it is a surprisingly peaceful story that enfolds readers with the love and warmth that comes from family.
To discuss the novel in any great detail would not only do a disservice to Mr. Hosseini’s skillful storytelling, it may also spoil key plot points for readers. The story’s power lies in the unknown relationships that connect each narrator; these connections do come to light but in their own time and manner. To rush or remove the experience of discovery is to unravel the very essence of And the Mountains Echoed.
As one might imagine in a story so simply told, this is very much a character-driven story. Mr. Hosseini does not move onto a new narrator until the character faces significant challenges and survives them through personal growth and painful lessons in humanity. It is difficult for a reader to select one particular character as a favorite, as they all have their prejudices and weaknesses as well as their strengths and values. They are also so very different from one another, and yet in many ways they are not so different after all. For, they are all very human, with all of humanity’s foibles.
And the Mountains Echoed is a simple story. It is the story of a father forced to make a difficult sacrifice to save his family. It is the story of a daughter chafing against the restraints of an unfamiliar culture. It is the story of a sister looking to fill the mysterious (and proverbial) hole in her heart. It is a story of an impoverished nation in which crime, war, and poverty run rampant. Mr. Hosseini effortlessly weaves these individual tales into a beautiful story about love and family and the far-reaching influences of both.