And the Mountains Echoed
Reviewed by Jessi Cape, Fri., May 17, 2013
And the Mountains Echoedby Khaled Hosseini
Riverhead Books, 416 pp., $28.95 (May 21)
Embracing a larger geographic scope than his previous two bestselling works (The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns), Khaled Hosseini's much-anticipated third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, is well worth the wait. The multi-city adventure begins with an epigraph from Rumi – a lofty aspiration for some writers, but a perfectly suitable introduction for Hosseini. To introduce the intricate details of a multigenerational family web with an ancient poem reflecting the gray – not black and white – reality of humanity foretells the novel's rollercoaster of emotion.
A classic oral story (think Grimm's Fairy Tales) opens the book, and readers' tears may fall by first chapter's end. Hosseini, an Afghan-born American who spent several years in France, utilizes his firsthand knowledge of cultural dynamics to mold the interpersonal ties and flesh out a fascinating cast of characters. Siblings Pari and Abdullah anchor the novel as shape-shifting stories of caretaking, love, and devastation ripple through decades across Kabul, Paris, San Francisco, and a Greek island. And medical trauma, shattered marriage, and even the sale of a child redefine family. Introspective and perfectly paced, Hosseini's microcosmic plot spares no expense with sensory details. Each character – including an actress with questionable maternal instinct, a warlord with heart, and a girl with half a face – captivates. The Afghan mountains, just like the walls of the family homes, hold secrets close.
Hosseini skillfully weaves the tapestry with universal elements: human fallibility, innate goodness, perseverance, forgiveness, sexuality, jealousy, companionship, and joy. Yet his words are never sugarcoated: The brutality of life is on display, and people are shown just as they are, for better or worse. Poverty and gender roles leave scars, while shifting points of view reveal Hosseini's prism of truth. The heartbreaks are not intended for shock value, but they do linger. And the Mountains Echoed resonates to the core.