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“When you have lived as long as I have, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour.”
‘And the Mountains Echoed‘ is Khaled Hosseini’s third novel. After the brilliance of the first two, I couldn’t help but expect to be blown away by this one too. And needless to say, I was not disappointed. The novel is based on the same issues as his previous novels: the parent-child bond and how the past has a way to always seep into the present. And like his previous novels, Hosseini mixes realism and fantasy, fable and tale in to a perfect blend.
The story starts off in Afghanistan, as do all Hosseini tales. A father, Saboor takes his two children – Pari and Abdullah to Kabul. Abdullah loves his little sister more than anything else in the world. But this one trip to Kabul will alter the fate of these individuals and set the course of life. It’s the choices they make in their life that will define them. Though the Nabi, the person who pulls the strings of this master tale is hid within the multitude of people, it is his choices that set the wheels in motion.
“The absence of something, or someone, fundamental to her own existence, it was vague, like a message sent across shadowy byways and vast distances, a weak signal on a radio dial, remote, warbled. Other times it felt so clear, this absence, so intimately close it made her heart lurch.”
Creating a kind of echo chamber, Mr. Hosseini gives us an assortment of other tales that mirror the stories of Abdullah and the older Pari. There’s the story of their stepmother, Parwana, and her beautiful sister Masooma, who was originally supposed to become Saboor’s betrothed; the story of Parwana’s brother, Nabi, who becomes a caretaker and kind of brother to Suleiman, his ailing employer; the story of the brash, fast-talking Timur Bashiri, whose family used to live down the street from the Wahdatis, and his introspective cousin Idris, who both now live in California; and the story of a Greek doctor named Markos who has moved to Kabul to operate on children who have been injured in the war, and his childhood soul mate, Thalia, who now cares for Markos’s aging mother back home in Greece.
This novel focusses greatly on the prism of sister-brother relationship, giving it an air of sacredness. Each chapter talks about a certain character. You feel the character’s soul being laid bare in the book. Of course, the writing is effortless, as only the master Khosseini can achieve. The words feel like poetry, flow out of the page and leave you breathless, yearning for more. Each story feels incomplete, but you realise it is all connected at the end and that’s the true beauty of story-telling.
But often, a few parts of the story feel awkward and out-of-place. Also, Hosseini uses every sentimental button there is, every so often creating cringe worthy moments. The pace of the story does slowdown in the middle, due to the incessant number of characters, quite a few of them unimportant. But on the whole, the artistry of the writing makes the book feel like a magical tale.
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
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