REVIEW: ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ continues Hosseini’s tradition
Everyone has a few authors whose next books they eagerly await. Khaled Hosseini is one of those for me, and at the heart of “And the Mountains Echoed” is another beautiful story that didn’t disappoint.
The novel opens with a fable about the div, a Persian monster that demands a child from unlucky families, taking all of their children if they refuse. But when Baba Ayub’s favorite child is taken by the div, he decides to follow and seek revenge.
When Baba Ayub finds the div’s fortress, he learns that it has been providing for his son, who is happy and has every advantage, including good friends and the best tutors.
The div gives Baba Ayub the opportunity to take his son home, and despite the heartbreak it causes him, he decides to go home alone so his son can continue receiving the opportunities he has.
This fable is told by Saboor as he travels to Kabul, Afghanistan, with his children Abdullah and Pari, who believe they are going to visit their Uncle Nabi. But as the story continues, the story reveals that Saboor has sold Pari to Nabi’s employers, devastating her brother, Abdullah.
What follows is a story that crosses decades and continents. But unlike the story of the Baba Ayub, it’s not Saboor’s story. “And the Mountains Echoed” looks at sibling and family relationships and the motivations, conflicts and heartbreak centered around the choice to give up a child.
This makes “And the Mountains Echoed” different from Hosseini’s other works — “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” — because it changes perspective in almost every chapter and through time. But the result is a story that is just as moving and powerful.
One of the most central elements of the novel is Afghan culture that is incredibly foreign to most Americans. Hosseini helps readers see beyond the war-torn country to its beautiful heritage, from the mosques and old homes to its language and poetry. More than that, though, he demonstrates the importance of pride and family to the Afghan people, who have family relationships as diverse and meaningful as Americans, by writing a story that shows family in all of its forms.
Through those relationships, Hosseini also explores the complexity of human nature by showing how different people react in an impossible situation, most significantly when forfeiting a child. The book argues that there is no right or wrong, but people have to live with their decisions. Hosseini challenges readers to think more carefully about those decisions and the impact they have as well as whether the motivation is more important than the result.
Hosseini does a wonderful job of changing time and point of view while keeping the reader interested. I became invested in all of the characters he introduced, and there was enough overlap between them all that I was able to start piecing together the bigger picture to see how each character affects it.
That big picture comes together at the end of the novel in a way readers might not expect, but that successfully connects all of these stories into one. The ending wasn’t the one I wanted, but Hosseini made me think it was perfect anyway, bringing together some of the characters I came to love and opening the door to a new relationship.
While “And the Mountains Echoed” is a significant change from his previous novels, I still found the same rich storytelling that left me wrestling with issues presented in the novel longer after I finish reading.