There is nothing that I like more than a book that transports me to a place that I have not yet been to. You should note the not yet in the last sentence as I plan on travelling absolutely everywhere and anywhere on this planet before my days come to an end.
I am a huge admirer of Khaled Hosseini’s books. Why? Firstly, I know that I am guaranteed a story of people and their relationships and secondly and most importantly because I know that I will be given a beautifully rich story of Middle Eastern countries, it’s people and their relationship to their land.
In Hosseini’s writing the country that he has set his story in becomes one of the main characters. You care about the country just as much as you do the people who live in it. He does not do this by t by wooing us with long descriptions of its beautiful landscapes but instead, by exposing it’s problems: the droughts, the harsh weather, the raging wars, the impassable terrains. With these problems you come to love and to care for the place. You maybe shocked and sickened by the actions of the people in it but the place has a beating heart that is full of colour, of children flying their kites and a laughter that is full of a wonderful spirit and courage.
And the Mountains Echoed is the most recent of Hosseini’s offerings to the literary world. It’s storytelling is far more complex than its predecessors: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. It spans several different generations and moves back and forth between Afghanistan and the West. He does, however, continue to write about many of the same themes that the first two books dealt with: parents and children, and the way in which the past can continually haunt the present.
I feel that this greater narrative complexity in And the Mountains Echoed coupled with the writer presenting his characters with more genuine emotion and with a greater depth of detail means that we as readers, now have a deeper understanding of his characters than we do in his first two books. We come to learn how they have defined themselves over the years through the choices that they have made: duty vs freedom, familial responsibility vs independence, loyalty to home vs exile abroad. Unseen in Hosseini’s previous work.
Whilst The Kite Runner focused on the relationship between fathers and sons and A Thousand Splendid Suns examined the bond between mothers and daughters, And the Mountains Echoed hones in on the bond between siblings and does so beautifully through the lives of several different brothers and sisters.
The two central characters of this book: Abdullah and Pari live in an impoverished Afghan village, the family has no money, Abdullah has had to look after his sister since their mother passed away giving birth to Pari and their have just lost their stepbrother during a particularly cold winter. We pick up their story with their father, Saboor, taking the two children on a long and arduous journey to Kabul. where their Uncle Nabi works for a wealthy couple. Whilst here a decision is made that will rip the two siblings apart for a great number of years (I don’t want to give too many spoilers!!!!) It is after this decision that the narrative begins to move between location and time, focusing on the stories of other characters and families but always coming back to the story of Abdullah and Pari.
Hosseini creates an echo chamber with this assortment of tales that mirror the stories of Abdullah and Pari. In doing so, the writer does sometimes drift into a little bit of cheesy melodrama to press every sentimental button that he can! However, in the hands of other writers, such narrative manipulations would have us sat behind our book cringing and thinking ‘O hell no…that’s a little bit too much!’ Instead Mr. Hosseini manages (for the most part, at least) not only to avoid this but actually succeeds in spinning his characters’ lives into a deeply affecting choral work. It is a testament both to his intimate knowledge of their inner lives, and to his power as an old-fashioned storyteller.
READ THIS BOOK!
As always I will leave you with some of my highlights:
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”
“They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”
“Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.”
“J’aurais dû être plus gentille—I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that.”
“They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under.”