“It’s a funny thing… but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really, what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.”
Khaled Hosseini’s latest novel, And the Mountains Echoed, begins in the 1950s outside of Kabul in the fictional village of Shadbagh. As a father tells his children an old folktale about great loss, he lays the foundation of Hosseini’s book. Hosseini himself is an Afghan-American who was born in Kabul, so he seems to have used his own history to craft this international novel with a local core.
Although the novel centers around Afghanistan like Hosseini’s other bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, it spans the globe and encompasses San Francisco, Paris and even a small Greek isle. Like Hosseini’s other works, And the Mountains Echoed (ATME) takes the reader to an unfamiliar and prosperous Afghanistan. Hosseini captures the once-progressive country’s rich past. He also shows the Afghanistan we know today; a country that has faced forty years of war and oppression.
The talented storyteller spins a tale about love and the sacrifices we make for the ones we love. Hosseini’s novel shines as he tells one story from nine perspectives, each chapter serving as its own short story that adds to the greater tale. ATME proves to be diverse in perspective as Hosseini uses first person narratives, epistolaries and interviews to add realism to his stories and characters.
The characters weave a complex web that represents how we create relationships in our day-to-day lives. This web shows how our personal decisions affect these relationships and the ramifications that follow. ATME effectively connects disparate characters together on an international scale through these interactions. A devoted brother, a loyal house servant, a guilt-ridden doctor in San Francisco and the oblivious son of a warlord are intricately tied in Hosseini’s net. This crafts an extensive spectrum of human emotion through these varied characters.
Because the structure of the book offers myriad perspectives, Hosseini tricks the reader into making first impressions of his characters. This impression is tested throughout the novel when it switches perspectives, forcing the reader to reevaluate characters. The character who seemed vain is revealed to have been tempered by a difficult life. Similar to our world, reality is convoluted and requires a deeper insight into peoples’ pasts in order to fully fathom them. The reader only then understands the characters and sees them for who they are. With this sleight-of-hand, Hosseini makes us realize what we humans empathize with and tolerate.
The backbone of the novel is about self identity. Our ambitions and failures are made plain in the text, and through the characters we see ourselves. With grace and cadence, each story resonates with the reader by being raw and true to life.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is an all-consuming, emotionally riveting novel. Someone who has not yet enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s capacity for storytelling should be prepared to read the book twice: the first time when you cannot lay the book down, and the second time when you close the back cover and immediately start again on page one.