Monday, November 4, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed (ATME) is Hosseini's third book after The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Of all things, Hosseini is a masterful storyteller. As the novel opens, the reader is immediately drawn into the story and mesmerized by the recounting of a fairy tale in which a father allows his son to be taken by a diva so that he could live a better life. It is most certainly foreshadowing and a parable for what is to come.

The central theme in ATME  is that of familial relationships. Sabor, father of Abdullah and Pari, travel to Kabul to visit an uncle, Nabi. However, the end result of the journey is the selling of Pari to Nila Wahdati. Presumably she will have a more fulfilling and richer life living with this mother, an Afghan beauty who also happens to be an alcoholic. The stories surrounding the major characters become intertwined with the minor ones through series of flashbacks. One needs to be mindful of the time in which the narrative is being told. When Nila's husband has a stroke, she takes Pari to Paris leaving Nabi to care for the old man. Eventually Abdullah moves to California and opens a kebab shop and as much as the reader yearns for a time of their reuniting, it becomes more of an uncertainty as the novel progresses. The siblings' stories take their separate winding journeys and in turn assimilate more characters into the families' chronicles. The collateral stories of cousins Idiris and Timur, the Greek plastic surgeon, Vavaris, add little to the course of the book, but shed light on the plight of the Afghans and familial relationships.

The plethora of characters in this book with names so unfamiliar to westerners proved challenging to remember. I found myself going back numerous times to see where I had met a character. I was glad to be reading it on my iPad so I could use the search function. And the Mountains Echoed is a haunting book that calls the reader to a story that is read on so many levels. It is a novel that really should be revisited because of the beauty of the writing that can be obscured on a first read as one is trying to keep track of time and people.

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