2013-12-26 / Opinions

Book Review

And the Mountains Echoed
Reviewed by

Many readers know Khaled Hosseini from his bestselling The Kite Runner. His second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was also a bestseller. This book, too, opens in Afghanistan, but moves on through various characters to Paris, California, even a Greek island.

An Afghan tale, told by a father to his children opens the story and echoes, like the mountains, till the end. A dreadful “div,” a monster, comes frequently to a village to claim a child. When Baba Ayub’s house is chosen, he must send his beloved son away with the monster. The tale comes true, in a sense, when Abdullah’s father chooses to sell Pari to a wealthy family in Kabul.

Pari and her older brother Abdullah are especially close, and it tears Abdullah apart when he realizes what has happened. Eventually, he leaves home too, to find his way in the world. His stepmother Parwana has a chapter, also. This book differs from Hosseini’s other novels in that a series of stories form the whole.

Meanwhile, although Pari (who is only three and a half when she leaves home) is distraught at first, she is young enough to adapt and to forget her brother and her first home. She continues to feel an emptiness that she cannot explain, all her life. Her adoptive father loves her, but he is soon estranged from her new mother. Nila is an unusual Afghan woman, rebellious and independent. Her husband can control her no more than her father could. She soon leaves with Pari to live in France, her mother’s land of origin.

Nabi, the children’s uncle, narrates a part of the story. He works for the Wahtatis who adopt Pari. He stays on, looking after Mr. Wahdati when he is invalided and eventually inherits the house. When Mr. Markos comes to war-torn Kabul to help, Nabi lets him stay in the house rent-free, and they become friends. When he is dying, Nabi asks Markos to find Pari, if he can, and to give her the house and his remaining belongings.

The story moves on to Pari as an adult, and we learn what happens to Nila. Other threads of the story concern an Afghan-American physician, a Greek plastic surgeon and photographer, and a jihadi and his son. Some of the relationships are incidental, some important, but they all tie together in a way that intrigues the reader to find the connections and influences. What does a person owe to his native land? How important are family needs? How should we respond to people in trouble?

Again, Hosseini tells a heartwrenching story, but tempers it with hope and the importance of love across time and space. As always, we want everyone to “live happily ever after,” but reality and age and conditions may keep that from happening. Along the way, we get to know charming and not-so-charming people in diverse places. And the Mountains Echoed is available at the Mary Willis Library.

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