I’ve heard my friends speak of Khaled Hosseini for a long time. Always good. Never bad. Over time, I’ve seen more and more people read his books, and they’ve had nothing but praise for him. Never a bad word, which is a pretty impressive feat. I admit, I was intrigued. Frankly, a little sceptical too.
And then I got hold of his third book, And the Mountains Echoed.
Let me just say, after reading that book, I could see where those people were coming from.
The book itself revolves about a brother and sister–Abdullah and Pari–in Afghanistan, and what happens to their family after one of them is sold to a wealthy family in order for both of them to grow up in safety. But it’s so much more than what happens to them. There’s the Wahdatis, the family who Pari, the sister, grew up with after she was sold. There’s Nabi, the children’s step-uncle, who works for the Wahdatis. There’s Parwana, the siblings’ stepmother, and Masooma, her twin sister, who is an invalid. There’s Markos, the Greek plastic surgeon, who helps children displaced by the unrest in Afghanistan, and his story. There’s Timur and Idris, the Afghan-American cousins, who come to their homeland in order to do their bit to help–and how one of them fails in the worst way possible. Then there are Pari’s and Abdullah’s own children, and what happens to them.
In a way, it’s not just one story. It’s the story of countless people, and how one decision could affect them all, even if they don’t realise it then, or at all. And they would all stand alone perfectly well on their own, even without the common thread connecting them all. But, in a way, that is what makes the story so beautiful. That, in spite of their apparent randomness, they are all related to each other.
The book itself begins with a folk tale. It may not be apparent at first why it was chosen to begin the narrative, but soon enough, we understand. And, when we read it again, we realise it to be an allegory for what events will soon ensue.
It also raises many questions in our minds, about humanity and morality. Would you rather give up one of your children to ensure the well-being of the others? Friends? Relatives? Or would you rather that you all suffered together? Is it a fact that, sometimes, a finger must be cut off in order to save the hand?
I don’t really know what I expected from Khaled Hosseini. I imagined it would be a Potteresque narrative. And, in a way, it was. But there’s so much more to this book that is so beautiful, it just can’t be captured in words. And whatever I expected, I never thought I would be moved so much by just one book.
It has been just one day since I finished reading it, but I already know this book has deeply affected me. And it will continue to affect the way I think, for longer than I can ever imagine now.
So: thank you, Mr. Hosseini. Thank you very much.