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Friday, January 10, 2014

Blogathon Post 8: And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

I haven't written a book review in a year, and ever since I read this book, I knew I wanted to re-start writing with this.
I wrote multiple versions of the review, and deleting all of them, since
  • Hosseini is my favorite author.
  • No words can do justice to his writing.

Here is my attempt to at least chronicle the experience of reading one of his works.
And the Mountains Echoed
First Published in: 2013
The third book by Khaled Hosseini is set in Afganistan, and revolves around the story of a brother-sister duo, which later branches out to introduce multiple characters of the plot.

Simple-Wordy, Serious

Fiction, Drama


No Profanity at all.

Favorite Quote:
Kabul is a thousand tragedies per square mile.

The book starts with a father telling their children a fairy tale. While one would expect a "and they lived happily ever after' at the end of it, being Hosseini's work, this tale moved me to tears, and set the mood for the rest of the book..

The essential core of the story is the relationship between Abdullah and Pari, where the latter is sold off to a rich and childless couple Mr.Wahdati and Nila, through the siblings’ uncle, Nabi. The parting of the siblings, while not described in detail, is explained by their step-mother, Parwana, in just a few words:
“It had to be her. I am sorry, Abdullah. She had to be the one.” The finger cut, to save the hand.
Worse yet is how the story pans out. While Abdullah, the doting brother, does not have it in his capacity to forget her, Pari, quickly moves on owing to her age and a new exciting life. For her, Abdullah is a dim memory, which would strike her again in full force in her old age.

Hosseini takes periodic diversions to include the fringe characters (which don't seem like fringe once you are done with the chapter, at least until one starts reading the next one). Thus, we get to know about their mother Parwana, and her insecurities with her sister Masooma; the insecurity with started during birth:
(Masooma) was merrily passed around, from cousin to aunt to uncle. Bounced on this lap, balanced on that knee. Many hands tickled her soft belly. Many noses rubbed against hers. They rocked with laughter when she playfully grabbed Mullah Shekib’s beard. They marveled at her easy, sociable demeanor. They lifted her up and admired the pink flush of her cheeks, her sapphire blue eyes, the graceful curve of her brow, harbingers of the startling beauty that would mark her in a few years’ time. As Masooma performed, Parwana watched quietly as though slightly bewildered, the one member of an otherwise adoring audience who didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Every now and then, her mother looked down at her, and reached to squeeze her tiny foot softly, almost apologetically.

The insecurity, in time, had ghastly consequences – the events penned down in such a way that you end up feeling sorry for both of them, and their loss of innocence.

We are mystified over Mr.Wahdati's marriage with Nila (Pari's adoptive parents), until we understand the meaning of Nila’s mysterious statement: "It was always you Nabi".

We find out about Mr.Wahdati's neighbours Idris and TImur and their visit to Afganistan where they meet Roshi, a victim of a bad accident. While we believe one to be worse over the other for his show of exhibitionism, we are made to realise that it is this poorly judged character that actually ends up doing a good deed. The concerned one, who starts making excuses for his lack of inaction justifies it such: 
Roshi has become something abstract to him, like a character in a play. Their connection has frayed. The unexpected intimacy he had stumbled upon in that hospital, so urgent and acute, has eroded into something dull. The experience has lost its power. He recognizes the fierce determination that had seized him for what it really was, an illusion, a mirage. He had fallen under the influence of something like a drug. The distance between him and the girl feels vast now. It feels infinite, insurmountable, and his promise to her misguided, a reckless mistake, a terrible misreading of the measures of his own powers and will and character. Something best forgotten. He isn’t capable of it. It is that simple. 

Not to be left behind, we are given a glimpse of life in the siblings' village, through the eyes of the Adel, son of a wealthy landlord who attains the lands through unethical means, and how Adel ends up adjusting to the truth.
The part of him that over time would gradually, almost imperceptibly, accept this new identity that at present prickled like a wet wool sweater. Adel saw that, in the end, he would probably accept things as his mother had. Adel had been angry with her at first; he was more forgiving now. Perhaps she had accepted out of fear of her husband. Or as a bargain for the life of luxury she led. Mostly, Adel suspected, she had accepted for the same reason he would: because she had to. What choice was there?

Hosseini has used different forms of narratives in this book. There is first and third person narrative, letter-writing and interviews to bring the pieces of the puzzle together. The novel is completely different from his previous two due to the broader focus. While The Kite Runner was essentially about children and The Thousand Splendid Suns, about Women in Afganistan, And The Mountains Echoed lacks a central character theme. It could have been set up in any country in any part of the world. There are stories of every character, which, though tied together by some common threads, could make for an independent reading as well.

None of this dilutes the fact that it is impossible to read the book without getting emotional, at one story or another. And that like his previous books, you can never get your mind off it, even months after reading it.

It would be a cardinal sin for anyone to not read it.


R's Mom said...

Last line noted

I find his books very depressing honestly..when I read a thousand splendid suns, I was under severe depression for several days, lashing out at RD for silly things..seriously! But I am going to give it a try because I dont want to commit a cardinal sin :)

Kunal Chandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kunal Chandra said...

My typos....

Thank goodness you did not give away the climax or the end of the book. I am at page 256 or something.
A good book indeed and thank god he wrote again. Khaled Hosseini had left us very uncomfortable by first making us fall in love with him and then suddenly disappearing - denying us what we had become addicted too.
I once said to someone after reading A thousand Splendid Suns that it was for the first time that after reading a book I felt like calling Khaled Hosseini to congratulate him and thank him for writing those books. I wanted to know who the man behind the magic was.
to be honest as you rightly said this book is different from the other two. I see him less invested in this than the other two but you can clearly see that through experience and encouragement his craft has improved.
This is so vain - who am I critquing him but anything in the spirit of commentathon...

You are almost half-way there. Well done! We got your back!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to read it, but after seeing RM's comment, let me postpone it for some more days. But, I will surely read it :-)

Archana said...

R's Mom and Mom since27: It is depressing!!! I couldn't stop crying with this book - but I am at a phase where I am crying for everything.

Kunal: It was so difficult to not give away any plot twists, and I think this is my worst book review!
This is different than the first two for sure. I have a feeling that he had visited Afganistan in the middle and heard so many sad stories that he wanted to put it all in.

Gayathri Manikandan said...

Khaled hosseini, Afghanistan - somehow they dont make me pick up his books despite the fact that they are praised by many... May be I should read this as part of Bingo challenge 'something thats in the bottom of my reading pile'

Archana said...

Haha! You should - at least 'The Thousand Splendid Suns'!