By Keshav Vivek
Khaled Hosseini, famed author of two bestselling books- The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, adds another feather to his cap with his latest novel, ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, mapping the trials and tribulations of an Afghan family across generations. The tale is an emotional foray into the nature of family relations and how they are shaped by the decisions and actions of those who make them. The narrative begins with a man, Saboor, putting his children to bed by telling them the tale of a demon and a father who has to give away his favorite son to keep the rest of the flock alive. It then treads deep into the lives of the story-telling father’s own children- Abdullah, the son and Pari, the daughter.
The trio set off on a journey that not only draws them away from the rustic environs of their village, Shadbagh, to the chaotic streets of Kabul but also overturns their lives. Saboor hands over Pari to a rich couple, the Wahdatis. There onwards, the author builds up multiple strands and parallel narratives, going back and forth in time, setting up the readers for the moment when brother and sister reunite. He does a commendable job, stringing together episodes in the lives of the many characters crowding the novel’s pages, their stories unfolding across time zones, from Afghanistan to Greece, France and the United States, a sweep as expansive as it is complex and overwhelming.
The people he constructs are flesh-and-blood characters. It is in the crisscrossing of lives that the novel reveals the beauty and uncertainty of human existence. The separation of Saboor, Abdullah and Pari is followed up by the life stories of those who come together to frame the rest of the narrative. Parwana, Abdullah’s stepmother; Nabi, Saboor’s brother-in-law; Nila Wahdati, Pari’s foster mother; the Afghan expatriates Timur and Idris and the Greek surgeon, Markos. One might mistaken it for a series of brief episodes plucked from the lives of unconnected individuals but kudos to the author’s craft that manages to turn the tale into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. All the while, Afghanistan hovers in the background; a nation whose fate is reflected in the vagaries that beset its people as they face or flee war, destitution and grinding poverty.
‘And The Mountains Echoed’ is as much a story of the harshness of life as it is of the generosity fate. Hosseini has delivered another gem. Recommended reading!