This is an older novel now, but I read it for my coworkers’ book club. I went with Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed because I’ve read his other two big novels (Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) and loved them. Spoilers may come up in this article, so if you haven’t read the book and plan to, proceed at your own risk!
The novel takes place across the U.S., Greece, Paris, and Afghanistan, throughout different storylines from various characters and family ties. Each family’s story creates an echo of the one that came before it. While every character dynamic creates a glimpse into the messiness of life and the relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and siblings, each on its own, together they weave a rich tapestry that converges all their stories.
From the very beginning, readers are warned that this isn’t going to have a happy ending. As Abdullah’s father tells his children the story of the div that takes a village’s children, only not for as vile a reason as they at first believe, we see the foreshadowing of what’s to come for Pari, Abdullah’s sister. In a time and village when raising children is difficult, Saboor, their father, makes the hard decision to give Pari away to Mr. Wahdati, his brother Nabi’s boss, so that she may have a better life and survive, even if it means breaking Abdullah and Pari apart.
But life with the Wahdatis is imperfect, as Nila, Pari’s new mother, struggles with depression and oppression in a society that demonizes “bad” women. Meanwhile, Mr. Wahdati hides his secret love for his chauffeur Nabi, who only comes to know this secret after he becomes the man’s caretaker after suffering a terrible stroke. Nila flees to Paris with Pari, where life for them there ensues in such disarray.
In and out these stories go, jumping from Markos Vavaris, who becomes friends with Nabi and discovers the secret of Pari’s past, and must now find her to reunite her with her brother, to two other cousins who visit Afghanistan in hopes of recovering their family’s lost land and encounter Markos and his friend Thalia.
It’s hard to lay out the details of all the stories, as after a while of reading, they bleed into one another and the lack of chronology makes it hard to tell one story without jumping back into another. This, of course, is Hosseini’s intention with the way he’s structured the novel. It’s all one story told from varying perspectives, and yet each perspective is its own story in its own right. The difficulty in retelling the whole point of the novel in fact reflects the book’s main theme: that life happens all at once in a kaleidoscopic field, and there maybe isn’t an actual point. It just is.
Hosseini’s prose is lush and poetic, reflecting the characters’ culture’s penchant for storytelling. Though the chapters grow longer as the book passes, time never seems to be an issue when reading it. The beauty of the Hosseini’s language makes this heavy and heartbreaking read easy to devour. Simply put, it’s just well written.
If you’ve read this book or other Hosseini works, leave comments! Did you like them? What were your thoughts?
This post was originally featured on The Misadventures of a Media Journalist blog.