ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His family first moved to Paris, and finally to the US, where he pursued his education. In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, which was published by Riverhead Books in 2003. That was the dawn of one of the most influential writing careers. Today, Khaled Hosseini is one of the most recognized and bestselling authors in the world. His books, The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed, have been published in over seventy countries and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.
It’s a funny thing… but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really, what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.
And the Mountains Echoed has a pair of siblings at its heart. Separated at birth, Pari and his brother Abdullah are reunited in the winter of their lives when, ironically, the latter has full-blown dementia and has lost most of his long-term memory.
The book’s multifaceted story is more globetrotting than Hosseini’s first two bestselling novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, and is perhaps even more emotionally resonant. If, at times, some threads of the story don’t quite match the heft of the rest, the effect of the plot as a whole is both unsettling and moving. It is Hosseini’s most assured and emotionally gripping story yet; more fluent and ambitious than The Kite Runner (2003), and more intricate than A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).
In his signature style, Hosseini weaves just the sort of yarn that gently tugs at the proverbial heartstrings of millions. His strength, as always, is good old-school storytelling, which is instantly gripping – the sort of thing that makes you sniffle a bit as you make your way through a bucket of popcorn in the relative comfort and safety of your living room or a movie theater.
Hosseini is particularly interested in puzzling out the ways in which more privileged people decide what they can and can’t do for those who live in misery. Whether those miserable beings are one’s folks is quite relevant, yet not the most reliable guideline owing to the fact that, sometimes, it is the greatest psychological ordeal to reach out to one’s family members – and also because sometimes we don’t even know who our folks are.
Creating a kind of echo chamber, Mr. Hosseini puts before us an assortment of other tales that mirror the stories of Abdullah and the older Pari. The story moves back and forth, between the 1940s and the present, offering us glimpses of the aftermath of the Soviet invasion and a more detailed, though not always a nuanced, perspective on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. And all this is played out against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s tumultuous history — from the pre-Soviet era through the years of the Mujahideen’s fight against the Soviet forces, the rise of the Taliban and the American invasion in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
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.
In fact, Hosseini’s novel is built as a series of tales, each told in a different style and from a different point of view. In less skillful hands, this structure may have come across as a compilation of short stories than a novel. Hosseini, however, carefully divvies up details about the circumstances preceding and following Abdullah and Pari’s fateful afternoon, bestowing upon the book a satisfying sense of momentum and consequence.
Although engaging, even in its episodic quality, the hydra-headed plot may leave the reader perplexed, if not impatient, from time to time. There is, for instance, a long-winded and somewhat unwarranted flashback to the Greek doctor’s boyhood years, the sole purpose of which is to justify his choice of profession. In another endless and sluggish section, two Afghan boys try to forge a friendship, only to discover how their fates have been poisoned by feuds between their forefathers. These digressions add nothing to the plot, and just thicken the book by a good hundred pages or so.
To what lengths should parents go to protect their children from a life of suffering? Is being torn from one’s family a better fate than leading a life of grinding poverty? What acts of mercy do the fortunate owe the less so? Asking questions like these, And the Mountains Echoed warrants a rating of 4 out of 5, and can be definitely recommended to friends and family alike.
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