on May 22, 2013
Summary: Pari and Abdullah are as close as siblings can be. Abdullah loves his sister so much, she is almost his daughter. So when the powers that be tear them apart, both of their lives are irrevocably changed. Years down the road we meet friends, doctors, chauffeurs, people whose lives are changed through this one event. What unfolds is a story that crosses oceans, teaching us what it means to love and care.
Review: Another hit from Khaled Hosseini! Truly, this man knows how to weave a story. And the Mountains Echoed is a less brutal novel than Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, but the story is no less meaningful nor less heartbreaking. Each chapter is written from the POV from a different character, and one chapter actually has two different POVs intertwined. Each POV is a different character's journey, but they are all related to each other.
Unlike the other two novels, this book does not center around regional conflicts. Hosseini delicately tells us stories of individuals who are going through real life journeys. They love, they die. They acquire dream jobs, and real life illnesses. The story is about individuals and how they relate to one another. Sure, the Taliban and the Russians are mentioned but only as a part of the setting. And since the story takes place in four different countries, we see a vast array of settings that help give more richness to the story.
One of the major themes of this novel is appearance vs. reality. The beautiful are empty, the morally repugnant are heroes. What may seem like a good idea at the time is actually the worst idea. The characters are also morally ambiguous, much like the main character in Kite Runner. One of the strength's of Hosseini is he sneaks characters into our hearts so that we may begin to understand their bad and ugly choices. You cannot hate the characters because they are only human.
Hosseini does a fantastic job creating unique voices for each of the POVs. Dare I say, even better than GRRM? The storytelling style even changes, from how a father tells his son a bedtime story, to how a woman gives an interview. It's quite remarkable.
One little issue I had was Idris' chapter. Although touching, it had little to do with the larger story. Even Markos' chapter fit. But Idris' chapter wasn't quite like the rest; it fit lyrically, but not contextually. I cannot say more without giving the plot away.
We already know Hosseini knows how to tell a story. But he has surprised us yet again by showing us that not only can he write one story, but he can create a novel quilted from the stories of nine different characters. Of course, my recommendation is READ!
Violence: None, although mentioned peripherally.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Quote: Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.
on May 21, 2013
I am almost embarrassed to admit I have yet to read Khaled Hosseini's first acclaimed works, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns so I couldn't pass up on the chance to read And the Mountains Echoed, the author's third novel.
This novel begins in 1952 as a father recites a bed time story to his young son and daughter during an overnight trek across the Afghanistan desert on their way to Kabul. The tale, we soon learn, tells the truth of the father's journey for desperate to provide for his new wife and growing family, the father has agreed to sell his daughter to a wealthy couple unable to bear their own in a deal brokered by their valet, his brother. The separation of the brother and sister, Abdullah and Pari, provides the catalyst for Hosseini to share several stories, within a larger arc, that explore the bonds of family and love, and the devastation of separation and loss.
Abdullah returns to their village with his father but feels the loss of his sister keenly;
"She was like the dust that clung to his shirt. She was in the silences that had become so frequent in the house, silence that welled up between their words, sometimes cold and hollow, sometimes pregnant with things that went unsaid, like a cloud filled with rain that never fell."
but never relinquishes the dream of being reunited with Pari.
At just four, Pari quickly settles into her new life but it is the story of her adoptive parents - the wild, provocative Nila and her introverted and much older husband Mr. Suleiman Wahdati, that unravels next as witnessed by Pari's uncle, Nabi. A marriage of convenience it soon disintegrates when Wahditi suffers a stroke and Nila flees to France, her mother's birthplace, with Pari. Nabi is left to nurse his invalid employer, remaining with him even as the war begins to rage around them.
Moving then to Paris, America while never straying far from war torn Afghanistan, the fates of Abdullah, Pari, and those connected to them are slowly revealed. It is an emotional, poignant journey that weaves its way in and out of character, time and place.
I do have to admit And The Mountains Echoed was not without its flaws for me. At times I felt the narrative was disjointed and while eventually Hosseini merges the threads of the splintered journey it is not always an easy path to follow. Characters come and go, and their importance, or their relationship to Abdullah and Pari, are not always clear.
Still, I was captivated by the powerful prose and the heartfelt emotion infused in this tale. And The Mountains Echoed is an epic tale of heartbreak and hope that exposes humanity at its worst and best. A fine novel that I am pleased to recommend.
on May 21, 2013
This novel opens with a parable told by a father to his son, about another father who is forced to give up his young son to a monster, a div. When the father later confronts the div and discovers that his son has been well taken care of and is leading a happy life, the div asks the father to make a choice: take his son home or leave him to his happy life. Realizing that to take his son would fill the void in his own heart but ruin his son's life, he leaves the son. Recognizing the father's selflessness, the div rewards him by erasing the memory of his son. Despite this "gift," the father is left his a hole in his soul that is never filled.
This opening parable is reflected in the rest of the interconnected stories in this novel, all of which involve, to some degree, characters presented with the same choice. Although the main narrative involves the bond between a brother and sister, this novel is actually much broader in scope than a story of siblings. The common thread, in my mind, is the effect of breaking a bond between two family members or close friends. When these bonds are broken, often voluntarily and for the good of one of the pair and the detriment of the other, the characters are forced to view the world in a new light. As young Abdullah notes shortly before losing his sister, he "felt the true vastness of the desert, and the world, for the the first time. How easily a person could lose his way in it."
Of course, every broken bond leaves a hole in the lives of the characters, ones they attempt to fill, often with other people. As one mother explains, she needs her daughter to "fill these holes inside me." Some succeed in filling these voids, while others are left with gaping holes that will never be filled.
Regardless of the overarching themes, this is an emotionally moving novel written by a master of crafting stories of relationships between people that we all can relate to. Hosseini often comes close to treading into overwrought sentimentality that, in the hands of a lesser author, would turn me off. Hosseini is saved by his remarkable ability to create characters and relationships that do not seem contrived. I am not ashamed to admit that I teared up during parts of this novel, which, in my eyes, is a sign that it was written by a masterful storyteller.
Hosseini is never restrained as he weaves several stories into a tapestry that is cohesive both in theme and in space. Each story is somehow connected to the others, although the characters themselves are often unaware. Like his other novels, this one focuses mainly on Afghanistan, but Hosseini spans the globe, placing parts of the story in California, Paris, and Greece.
When The Kite Runner was published, not long after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, many Americans had little knowledge of the people that lived there. Hosseini has excelled as introducing these people and their heartbreak to a general Western audience, humanizing the people that are eyewitnesses of the most recent war and the atrocious Taliban control that proceeded it. Now, as our involvement in Afghanistan begins to wind down, this novel shows, in some ways, the effect of our involvement in the country. This is not a novel about the war in Afghanistan. Many of the conflicts created in its stories, however, are in some way the result of the general upheaval caused by the many wars in that country. If nothing else, Hosseini's novels reflect the fate of Afghans in the last century: being caught as a cultural crossroads that often results in a mashing of people, some of whom are flung to the far corners of the world. One can only hope that the coming years bring a peace and prosperity to Afghanistan that allows the heart-wrenching dramas that populate Hosseini's novels to dissipate.
on May 21, 2013
Beginning with a highly allegorical bad-ass tale of a child-stealing div, Hosseini weaves several tales of hurt, death, love, and reunion that spans more than 50 years.
Centered around Pari a young Afghan woman, Hosseini employs a unique technique: by clustering biographical accounts of the people around our main character, we simultaneously are drawn into her tale, while being blessed with the story of many different individuals.
Free of melodramatic coincidence, its hard not to be sucked right into this book as if one is reading real happenings, I'm a pretty skeptical reader, and I found myself wondering how much truth inspired these stories.
Unfortunately while the first 3/4 of the book are brilliant and feel like they are leading towards a satisfying conclusion, the latter quarter begins to drag and required some determination to finish the piece. Ultimately worth it but with a slightly under-nourishing conclusion.
on May 27, 2013
The trouble with having Khaled Hosseini as your name and writing as your profession is that no matter how hard you try, your works will always be compared to your piece de resistance, The Kite Runner. While the debut novel of Hosseini let the literary circuits on fire and was quickly adapted to a namesake film too, the new work by him fails to create the magic again. I have gone through the work twice in a soan of eight days, the second time in a bid to search for the all important connection that I so lovingly made with the characters in The Kite Runner, but alas, there was none to be.
Hosseini keeps the base intact as his earlier two novels- War torn Afghanistan, the protagonist(s)' lives changing on account of the tumult etc.
where the novel fails, and a momentous failure it is, is that the author fails to keep the emotional crescendo sustained. The novel works brilliantly towards the middle, where the reader misses a heartbeat or two on Pari discovering her brother, again. But the crescendo quickly turns flat, a cola without fizz, a plateau and never works up again. As I write this, I also realise that in the true sense, there are no protagonists or antagonists - there are too many characters. Just too many. Unlike The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, which had focus on characters and developed them in flesh and bone, the current work burdens itself with creation of unnecessary characters, reeling across three generations. A lot of irrelevant time is spent on characters like Markos, Thalia etc. and at the risk of sounding brusque, I dare say that this seems like an attempt to add volume to the work, sans real content. The real heroes are muddled in page after page of unnecessary description of decrepit characters, and it shows.
Hosseini tries and stays true to his roots, beautiful wordplay, stirring emotions, but these are too far spaced out and too many.
In the end, And The Mountains Echoed buried itself under its own burden, and leaves the reader with a tingling sensation of having reached the epitome of emotional upheaval, but not quite. I write this review with mixed feelings of disappointment and ennui which I so clearly never thought will be the adjectives associated with a work of a reputed author like Hosseini.
on May 28, 2013
I love the author and both previous works, I waited for almost 5 years for this book with great anticipation but felt completely underwhelmed. There were too many unnecessary story lines that added nothing to the overall plot and took away from what would have been a beautiful story had Pari and Abdullah been the focus of the work and the fall out from what happened to them.
on May 26, 2013
I was really looking forward to reading this book and really wanted to like it.
The beginning of the story pulled me in and tugged at my heart... detailing the separation of two siblings after their mother dies.
In each of his three novels, Hosseini does an amazing job of providing a glimpse into the world of Afghanistan... both the wealthy and the poor. My absolute favorite part of his writing is about Afghan culture.
This is a novel that spans over 60 years in time. Really, there were at least six separate sets of story and character which are woven together through the course of the novel. I felt like once I had really started to get to know a part of the story, he moved on to the next.
I did not feel that there were extremely strong ties between the different stories. He did bring them together, but not in a way I found meaningful or inspiring. I felt like I kept reading and waiting for the message... which I never got.
Hosseini is a gifted writer who has intrigued me with his stories of Afghanistan, making it more than just a place of war. Unfortunately, this book was disappointing.
on May 25, 2013
I read an advanced copy of this book and was appalled. I though it a great waste of my time and resented the fact that I continued to read hoping that it wouldn't just continue to go down hill after the first 150 pages which I found perfect and kept me going. I have hesitated writing a review after seeing the 4 1/2 stars which I'm surprised about. I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and was anxious for this book.
Why didn't I like this book? As I said, I loved the first 150 pages and settled in for a great read but then the rest just completely lost me as it jumped around from characters and places with no sense of flow but rather "jerky" with both setting and characters. In the beginning of the section after 150 pages, I actually checked to see if there were pages missing or another excuse for what was happening. I can't help but wonder how the author would explain his intent after the first 150 pages.
I could not in good consciousness recommend this book and 11 of my friends and others who have read it are reporting the same feelings after looking forward to the next book by Hosseini.
on May 25, 2013
hosseini's first two books were great, i thought 1000 splendid suns was even better than kite runner; this one paled by comparison; good writier but he skipped around from character to character & decade to decade thoughout the story; i was hard to keep track of who is he was following; just not up to the standard set by his first two works
on June 4, 2013
I have always been a fan of K.H. This book was very disappointing to me in so many levels. To being with, midway through the book, I was getting frustrated because I felt that the shift from one character to the next was happening to quickly and sans connection. There was no in depth character development. After a while, the whole thing just become predictable. I wanted to know more about who I assumed to be the main characters, Pari and her brother. But the author kept on telling us the reasons behind why each of the other characters were doing what they were doing. For instance, it was not necessary to know the life history of the Greek doctor. I can go on and on. At the end, I did not feel any real connection to any character and predict that I'll forget the whole book in a few months.