About the Book
So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one...
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.
There is a beauty in the written word; stringing together instructions, plots, feelings, scenery, song and secrets. Hosseini does this with the woeful hand of ease, he makes the daunting task of wielding power, heartache, and disappointments seem easy as if it unrolls like a tablecloth.
His previous novels have always been set aside, intimidating and coercing me to delve past the veil. And the Mountains Echoed is a novel woven together with great skill of an accomplished author, the tellings of one act of sacrifice (A finger must be cut to save the hand) that ripples through the lives of generations, family and wavers the strongest of men.
There is no need for me to lament the victories of this novel, it’s an undeniable truth, one I am happy to give Hosseini – he proves it in his skill. So strip the commerciality of it away and delve deeper into a setting of war, poverty and family. Hosseini’s characters are dreadfully unhappy, from Nila Wahdati, a wounded woman chastened by her time and expectation of being an Afghan woman torn between freedom and security, to a Greek aid-doctor based in Kabul who cannot seem to find what it is he is looking for?
It strikes the reader almost instantly that this story is more than just a journey, but a sneezed-in-pepper advice code book of sorts. Characters are flung across the world, only to be magnetically drawn to their fates; so begins the fable. The formula that strings along in the premise of his other novels.
In a review by The Guardian, by Alexander Linklater:
... the threat of bland formula is instantly dissolved in Hosseini's elemental narrative chemistry.
Do we comment on the way the story was so evocative? Or merely accept it as fiction? Or is this how we western-cultured dwellers experience a ravaged world?
I can find fault in the sameness of Hosseini’s novel to what we are calling the Afghanistan-Fiction genre that happily plays house to some of the twenty-first century’s greatest novels. I find novels such as this one almost paramount to our reading experience, as we know the stove is hot and that swearing will earn you soap on your tongue. We of reading cultures need books like this, even if they give us turning stomachs, broken hearts and sour moods.
Hossieni didn’t disappoint with his third novel.
And the Mountains Echoed was chosen as Exclusive Books recommended books for June. You can follow my posts here.
About the Author
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and moved to the United States in 1980. His novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were international bestsellers, published in thirty-four countries. The graphic novel of The Kite Runner was published in 2011. In 2006 he was named a US Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency. He lives in northern California.