Saturday, August 22, 2015

And the Mountains Echoed Book Review

Khaled Hosseini, the author known for his unforgettable bestseller ‘The Kite Runner’ and the splendid tale of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, returned after a hiatus of six years, to render a tale of humanity, love and sacrifice in another heartbreaking narrative although not as emotionally brutal as his previous works.

To begin with, here’s the back cover book summary.

Afghanistan, 1952. 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 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.

Abdullah loves his sister Pari, almost like a daughter but due to financial reasons their father is forced to separate them. This story is about the how their lives are irrevocably changed and how the lives of other people, who are connected to them in one way or the other, are also affected.

I believe the most important feature of any book is the ability of the author to engross the reader from the first go. And Khaled Hosseini being a well known and exceptional writer, knows how to weave a story and similar to his other two novels, ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is no different. Bathed in sadness and despair, with the occasional but necessary, ray of hope, the underlying theme could be taken as that of appearance v/s reality, along with heartbreak and redemption set as the backdrop.

With this book, Hosseini has surprised us yet again by showing that not only his excellent abilities as a writer, but also his capability to create a novel which is quilted from the stories of nine different characters.

‘And the Mountains Echoed’ spans over three generations, intersecting lives of the main characters with those of refugees, volunteering doctors, aid workers, war victims etc. . The Taliban is also mentioned, but just as a background setting.

Each chapter has been written from the point of view of a different person. And unlike his previous works, this one doesn’t centre on regional conflicts. It narrates, rather the individual life journeys and their relation to one another. It is a tale that takes us to four different countries, adding richness and texture to the whole experience of reading a Hosseini novel.

I have always felt that one of the best traits of Hosseini, as a storyteller, is that he sneaks the characters in our hearts so that we may begin to understand their choices, bad or even ugly. Like ‘The Kite Runner’, here too the characters are morally ambiguous. They are complicated and it is hard to recognise the good in the bad or vice versa. Yet, you cannot hate the characters; after all they are only human, a fact that any Hosseini novel ensure you never forget.

To conclude, I feel that ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is his most ambitious novel so far. It covers more ground, both geographically as well as emotionally, in comparison to his earlier masterpieces. From the very first page, Hosseini has tested the love of each and every character. The story is filled with unspoken feelings, regrets evident only from the tiny but crucial details. It’s hard to do justice to this book with such a brief review, but one thing is for certain that Khalid Hosseini has shown us again, how one can succeed and triumph against all odds no matter what the cost.

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