Review of 'And the Mountains Echoed'

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

and_the_mountains_echoed.jpg Abdullah, 10, and his sister Pari, live together in the small village of Shadbagh in Afghanistan in 1952. The two children are inseparable playing together and spending all their time together despite the age difference. When their parents fall on hard times an extremely difficult decision is made to “sell” Pari to a wealthy couple in Kabul. This book follows not only the children's story but also the story of those around them that are effected in a series of chapters and events taking place over the course of 60 years. The story follows Pari's move to France with her adopted French mother. We hear of the compassion of Nabi, the driver of the adopting couple but also Abdullah and Pari's uncle who ends up owning his wealthy employer's Kabul home but always living in the shack in the backyard. The life of Markos Varvaris, a doctor from Greece, who travels to Kabul to help in repairing the damage inflicted by years of war and taking up residence in Nabi's house. This is a story of love, tragedy and fate in a world where things are not as simple as you might hope.

This is quite a departure from Hosseini's previous books “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” in both narrative structure and tone: The explicit brutality of some of his previous work is largely absent here preferring instead to concentrate on the emotional damage inflicted on the characters and their recovery. While Afghanistan is the pivotal location here the story encompasses Greece, the United States, the United Kingdom and France making this book far more cosmopolitan than it's predecessors. Similarly, while the effect of the war is certainly seen in this story it is certainly not the central focus. Indeed, most of the tragedy here comes from the characters themselves inflicting it upon each other through both circumstance but also for selfish reasons though there are no real “bad guys” here, rather, shades of grey - as it is, one would argue, in real life.

I found this an enthralling read and, if anything, more moving than Hosseini's previous books as it touches on the nuances of life rather than the vivid, obvious, brutality of war. In some ways normal people forced into making difficult decisions is more tragic than the firing of a weapon.

It was, at times, difficult to follow the dramatic switch in each chapter to telling the stories of different characters often being somewhat in the dark for many pages before realizing the connection these characters have to the rest of the story. The fact that these chapters also tend to cover large numbers of years over and over again does add somewhat to the momentary confusion but, ultimately, it all comes together as a coherent whole as the novel concludes. I do have to say, without giving anything away, the conclusion, rather than being a triumph of love, is somewhat melancholy but this, perhaps, is what Hosseini is trying to get at: Life is not always made up of tidy, satisfying conclusions.

Wonderfully written and touching, “And the Mountains Echoed” is certainly a book that is deserving of a read. Touching and poignant this is a story of real life.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2015-12-27

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9781408842454

Other reviewed books by Khaled Hosseini: