And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini Those of us who read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini have been waiting for a new book from this author for some years now. I am frequently asked if there is any news of a new book – and I can now say, Yes!
When I was handed an advance copy of And The Mountains Echoed it went to the top of my “to read” pile. It sat there a few days while I finished the book I was already reading – and I thought about it. Khaled Hosseini’s first novel The Kite Runner, published in 2003, stunned us all with its intense and brutal story about the life of a boy in Afghanistan. A Thousand Splendid Suns followed in 2007, again brutal and intense, this time the story of a woman. These novels have been read by millions of people worldwide, and would be on my “books you must read” list.
So, And The Mountains Echoed. I was expecting a book as brutal and intense as Khalid Hosseini’s earlier books – and I will admit that I hesitated to begin reading this book. There have been many other books about Afghanistan and that part of the world published in the last decade and we’ve all read many of them. The conflict that has involved the Canadian military and other Westerners in Afghanistan has been going on for what seems like a very, very long time. I am, quite honestly, personally exhausted at the thought of it all – and was feeling much the same way about the thought of picking up And The Mountains Echoed. But, I had to. I knew my customers would be asking me if I liked it, so I gritted my teeth and began. And I liked it – I liked it very much.
This new novel is neither brutal nor intense. It is, what I would call, a very good literary novel. The story is interesting, the characters are engaging, it is well written, there is some history, there is just enough suspense – all the things that make a novel worth reading.
We begin in 1952, with a family living in poverty in a rural village, and a father who makes a decision that sets the novel in motion.
We have an American doctor, Idris, working in Afghanistan while his wife at home continues with a renovation – including the installation of a home theatre. This now seems beyond surreal to Idris, so disconnected from his life in America, here in Kabul where there are “a thousand tragedies per square mile”.
And we have a young girl, Pari, believing Maman is her mother, at the same time feeling the absence of something she cannot define - experiencing the oddest feeling while watching a young mother pull her son in a little red wagon, and while looking at a massive oak near a farm in France. Images she knows but does not know – images from some earlier time in her life, before conscious memory. But, as she grows, a life is lived and time passes.
It is not until 2010, when Pari, now a middle-aged mother is provided with some answers by another doctor, Markos Varvaris, a plastic surgeon, now living in Afghanistan. The novel now reveals his story as well. Markos, is the son of a strong willed mother, a teacher who said to students found bullying, “If I hear rumors of taunting. I will find you and I will make you sorry. You know I will. I have no more to say about this business.” A woman who expects great things of her son, but does not tell him how proud she is until he is 56 years old, never realizing how much it means.
This novel puts a human face to the people we see on the news each night in what seems to be a hopeless, place of endless strife. There is perhaps some hope that those remaining in Afghanistan, and those who have returned, can help to rebuild a country free of war. I’m not one of the optimists.
I do not want to reveal too much about this novel – I know it will be one everyone will be reading this summer. And The Mountains Echoed, while not as intense – forceful – powerful – as The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, is just as passionate – and sad – as Khaled Hosseini writes again about the fate of his birth place.