An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.
Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
In honour of And the Mountains Echoed being part of the Penguin Daily Delights calendar today, I’m re-releasing my review of this truly amazing book. Haven’t read it yet? It wasn’t found under the tree this year? Get thee to a bookstore (independent, preferably!) and pick it up, post-haste!
A new novel by Khaled Hosseini is something to anticipate. It’s been five years since the overwhelming “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, and ten years since the hugely successful novel “The Kite Runner” first appeared on our shelves. With his most recent book, Hosseini has crafted a story that is hauntingly lovely, lending itself to moments of heartbreak and happiness – well worth the wait, in my view.
The story begins with a father who is telling his children an Afghan fable. This transfers into the tale of Abdullah, his sister Pari and how their lives change after a journey to see their uncle, Nabi. This story will weave itself through the chapters that follow, as the characters we meet in one story become the narrators of the next. When you finish one story, a character briefly mentioned in within may narrate another four or five chapters along, inviting you to flip back to rediscover key information you thought you might have missed. As in real life, there are always unrealized connections between people and places, and this book plays on those moments in our lives, showing us how our threads may always be connected.
There are many journeys in this book, and the story takes us throughout Europe and the US. Underneath it all, however, is the story of Afghanistan and its people. Those who leave are profoundly affected by their time there, and are never the same. Those who remain struggle to find themselves within a country that is reinventing itself over and over. I enjoyed that these characters were flawed, and that their decisions had long-lasting repercussions. For many of characters we see the journey of their lives, watching as they age, find love, face change and even loss – and let’s face it, there can be a lot of loss in Hosseini’s novels – while others are peripheral characters whom we may only meet once. The central characters who have suffered a loss never truly recover, leading them onwards in an attempt to find peace.
“A thousand tragedies per square mile, man.”
~ And the Mountains Echoed, page 159
What stops the novel from falling into utter despair is that every loss is counterbalanced by a moment of love, camaraderie, and happiness. Overall, the story is one of generations; these are interwoven short stories that begin with a folk tale and lead us back and forth through time and across continents. There is ruinous misfortune here – Hosseini writes it like very few can – but there are also moments of pure joy and I found myself wiping away tears while laughing aloud. At the end, I was completely transfixed by this book in a way that I haven’t been in a while, and I credit that to my desire to discover every small detail I could about these characters. I can only hope that the wait for the next novel won’t be as long.
“But something else lies at the edge of it all, at the rim of her vision – and this what draws her most – an elusive shadow. A figure. At once soft and hard. The softness of a hand holding hers. The hardness of knees where she’d once rested her cheek. She searches for his face, but it evades her, slips from her, each time she turns to it. [She] feels a hole opening up in her. There has been in her life, all her life, a great absence. Somehow, she has always know.”
~ And the Mountain Echoed, 237
“And the Mountains Echoed” was provided by Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase at your friendly indie bookstore, and at Indigo. ISBN: 9781594631764, 416 pages.