The novel opens in the year 1952. Saboor, an impoverished farmer from the fictional village of Shadbagh, decides to sell his three-year-old daughter Pari to a wealthy, childless couple in Kabul. Ignorant of his father's plans, 10 year old Abdulla...
And the Mountains Echoed is the third novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini. Published in 2013 by Riverhead Books.
Khaled Hosseini born March 4, 1965 is an Afghan-American novelist and physician. After graduating from college, he worked as a doctor in California, a predicament that he likened to "an arranged marriage." He has published three novels, most notably his 2003 debut The Kite Runner, all of which are at least partially set in Afghanistan and feature an Afghan as the protagonist. Following the success of The Kite Runner he retired from medicine to write full-time.
Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father worked as a diplomat, and when Hosseini was 11 years old, the family moved to France; four years later, they applied for asylum in the United States, where he later became a citizen. Hosseini did not return to Afghanistan until 2001 at the age of 36, where he "felt like a tourist in [his] own country". In interviews about the experience, he admitted to sometimes feeling survivor's guilt for having been able to leave the country before the Soviet invasion and subsequent wars.
All three of his novels became bestsellers: The Kite Runner (2003) spent 101 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, four of them at number one. A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) was a Times Best Seller for 103 weeks, 15 at number one. And the Mountains Echoed (2013) debuted near the top of the Times list and remained on it for 33 weeks until January 2014.
Exclusive Books Boeke Prize
2004 : The Kite Runner
British Book Awards
2008: A Thousand Splendid Suns for Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year
Book Sense Book of the Year Awards
2008: A Thousand Splendid Suns for Adult Fiction
California Book Award Silver Medal
2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns for Fiction
Goodreads Choice Award
2013: And the Mountains Echoed for fiction.
it deviates from Hosseini's style in his first two works through his choice to avoid focusing on any one character. Rather, the book is written similarly to a collection of short stories, with each of the nine chapters being told from the perspective of a different character. The book's foundation is built on the relationship between ten-year-old Abdullah and his three-year-old sister Pari and their father's decision to sell her to a childless couple in Kabul, an event that ties the various narratives together.
Hosseini stated his intentions to make the characters more complex and morally ambiguous. Continuing the familial theme established in his previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed centers on the rapport between siblings. Besides Abdullah and Pari, Hosseini introduced two other sibling and sibling-like relationships—the children's stepmother Parwana and her disabled sister Masooma and an Afghan-American doctor named Idris and his cousin Timur.
As it was Hosseini's first novel to be published in six years, And the Mountains Echoed was reportedly in high demand It received favorable pre-publication reviews and was anticipated as another strong success, reaching the top 10 on Amazon.com before its release and later becoming a bestseller. Five months after the publication of And the Mountains Echoed, it was reported that three million copies had been sold.
There is a bland, almost corporate flavour to the title of Khaled Hosseini's third book, suggesting a large but windy Afghan epic. Its narrative wares are clearly advertised in the book-jacket blurb to reassure his tens of millions of worldwide readers that they will be getting the brand they want. This effectively marketed product informs its consumers that, as there was in The Kite Runner, here there will also be siblings separated by hardship and tragedy. There will be nostalgia for old Afghanistan, ironised by its clashes with western freedoms and shattered by modern wars; there will be leaps in time, speaking of the cruel tricks of history through wildly emotive tales of loss, betrayal and redemption.
"You want a story and I will tell you one," Hosseini begins, with a device that informs his readers exactly what is what and who is who. It is 1952. A father presents his children with a fable as they embark on a journey through the mountains of the book's title, a myth to prepare them for the coming rupture in their lives, one that will echo down generations.
But the threat of bland formula is instantly dissolved in Hosseini's elemental narrative chemistry. The opening myth is a substance that permeates a network of tales, its meaning developing and diversifying across 400 pages. A div, or demon, draws a father into a terrible pact. The father can gift his favourite son a better life by giving the child away, never to see him again. This is what Saboor, the poor Afghan father telling the story, is himself about to do to his three-year-old daughter, Pari, who has an unusually powerful bond to her brother, Abdullah. From the moment the realisation dawns that Saboor is going to give Pari to the wife of a wealthy man in Kabul, Hosseini saturates the various layers and characters of his novel with a yearning for the moment that brother and sister will reunite.
"A story is like a moving train," as Hosseini has one of his many tale-telling characters remark, "no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later." True enough, but Hosseini isn't restricted to any single route, or mode of transport. He is a master of that deeper narrative principle: get your audience where they want to go, but not in the way they expect.
Digressing across a web of family connections, he delays gratification without frustrating desire. He guides a multi-layered narrative tantalisingly away from the siblings' denouement through characters you initially assume are merely foils, but who instead become gripping destinations in their own right: the first stepmother, Parwana, who is not merely a psychological cue for childhood unhappiness, but the bearer of a sibling sorrow of her own; the uncle, Nabi, who makes the deal that separates the children, but turns into the book's lightning rod of sympathy; Pari's new stepmother, Nila Wahdati, who callously removes Pari to France for a new life but transforms, for all her unattractiveness, into one of the novel's more compelling creations.
While events ricochet between countries, Hosseini's recurrent concern is the same: the relationship of Afghanistan to the wider world; what its traumas have done to those who remain and what happens to those who leave and then come back to rediscover their country. Two expats, Timur and Idris, return to reclaim a house in Kabul, near the one to which Pari was first stolen away. Idris, the sensitive doctor, is embarrassed by their Americanised attitudes and the power that money bestows on them. But through him, Hosseini turns a simplistic critique of the US into a nice irony. The culturally sophisticated Idris turns out to be ineffectual. It is the crass and ethically dodgy Timur who gets things done and makes a difference.
By the time Hosseini finally gets round to the reunion, via a Greek aid official living in the house in Kabul where Pari was adopted, he has compressed a dozen life stories into his novel and unified them through an irresistible substance of yearning. His end is not quite the expected coming together but, instead, a trigger for memory.
And the Mountains Echoed charges its readers for the emotional particles they are, giving them what they want with a narrative facility as great as any blockbusting author alive. Perhaps there is some hokey emotional chemistry at work here, but, in the process, Hosseini is communicating to millions of people a supple, conflicted and complex picture of his origin country, Afghanistan.
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