Title: And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
First Publication: 2013
Major Characters: Julien, Abdullah, Pari, Suleiman Wahdati, Nila Wahdati, Nabi, Parwana, Saboor, Timur Bashiri, Idris Bashiri, Masooma, Eric Lacombe, Markos Varvaris, Thalia
Setting Place: Shadbagh, New Shadbagh, and Kabul (all in Afghanistan); Paris, France; Tinos, Greece; California, USA.
Theme: History and Memory in Afghanistan, Suffering and Perseverance, Shame and Reputation, Love, Loyalty, and Belonging, Gender Relations and Female Friendship
Narrator: The novel consists of nine chapters, each narrated from a different point of view. One chapter is epistolary (written in the form of a letter), another is written in the first person, and several others are narrated in the third person limited point of view.
Book Summary: And the Mountains Echoed
Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother 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 Abdullah, 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 heads 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 in which 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.
Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is an epic multi-generational family saga starting in the 1950s with a variety of settings – from Afghanistan to France, from Greece to the United States. The narrative is quite complex, flitting between eras, characters and locations but Hosseini is always firmly in control, pulling the strings and easing the reader’s journey. Hosseini has a style of writing that can be described as nothing short of poetic. He’s a master storyteller, and the first chapter was so beautifully written that I knew it would be a matter of days before I’d end up turning the last page and heaving a sigh of regret at having it end so soon.
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”
And the Mountains Echoed opens in a tiny village in Afghanistan in the mid 1950s, where a young father is telling a local fairy tale to his two young children. The next day, their lives change irrevocably when they depart for Kabul, starting off a series of events that takes the reader on a journey across the world and spanning several generations of families.
But this isn’t just one story. It’s a collection of nine interconnected stories, all of which have been woven together along parallel themes of family, dependence, loyalty, betrayal, and abandonment. Each story introduces the reader to new members of this first young Afghan family, and to the people whose lives they intermingle with.
“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.”
Throughout these stories, we feel sadness and sorrow for these characters, but we also feel compassion, joy and happiness at seeing everything come full circle. Hosseini shows us time and time again with his writing that Afghanistan isn’t a country to be reviled or feared, no matter what the media would have us think.
The final section of the novel, set in the US, was the pièce de résistance for me. I won’t give away any spoilers but, suffice to say, Hosseini expertly captures the effects of age with quiet, understated but supremely powerful writing – a quiet domestic scene between siblings can be as, if not more, effective than all the battle scenes one can conjure.
“Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and right doing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
If you intend to read Khaled Hosseini’s third novel And the Mountains Echoed and you’re expecting something along the lines of his first two blockbusters (The Kite Runners and A Thousand Splendid Suns), you won’t get exactly what you’re looking for, but I promise it’s going to hook you from page one.