I was excited when one of my book groups chose And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I had loved both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns and was glad for the extra motivation to finally read his third novel. It was worth the wait – just as poignant, engrossing, and heart-breaking as his first two books.
Many different characters’ lives are interwoven in And the Mountains Echoed, but a brother and sister stand at the heart of this novel. Ten-year old Abdullah adores his 3-year old sister, Pari, and the feeling is mutual. In fact, Abdullah is more of a parent to Pari than a brother, since their mother died in childbirth and their father was first wracked with grief and later remarried. Abdullah cares for his little sister and makes sure she is clean and fed and loved. They share a unique bond.
Abdullah is understandably devastated when he and his beloved sister are separated from each other. They each grow up in their own worlds, many miles away from each other. Pari is also upset by the separation, but being only three years old, she soon forgets her precious brother and grows up in her own world, though she always feels that something is missing.
Although Abdullah and Pari are at the center of this complex novel, many other characters share connections with them: the children’s father and stepmother, their step-brother, a much-loved uncle, Pari’s adoptive parents, and eventually even Abdullah and Pari’s own spouses and children. Other characters who touch their lives are also introduced and explored. As with Hosseini’s first two novels, the result is a complex web of human relationships and emotions.
And the Mountains Echoed is a far-reaching novel, both emotionally and geographically, spanning the world from a small rural town in Afghanistan to Kabul to Paris and San Francisco. It follows multiple generations and includes a wide variety of different relationships. As with his earlier novels, Hosseini’s writing is beautiful, evoking both the scenes described and the emotions felt by its characters. I marked many passages that I wanted to write in my Quote Journal, including:
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”
And another favorite of mine:
“I have lived a long time…and one thing I have come to see is that one is well served by a degree of both humility and charity when judging the inner workings of another person’s heart.”
As you can see just from these brief passages, Hosseini’s writing is achingly beautiful and thought-provoking, filled with philosophical insights into life and love and human nature. This novel explores romantic love, unrequited love, friendship, love between a parent and child, and of course, sibling love within the framework of an intricate, unforgettable story. It is heart-breaking and poignant, but, as with his earlier novels, it does end with an element of hope for a brighter future.
402 pages, Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin Group)
For more about the author and his novels, visit Khaled Hosseini's website.