Oh my. After putting me through an emotional wringer with A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini does it again with And the Mountains Echoed. The b...moreOh my. After putting me through an emotional wringer with A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini does it again with And the Mountains Echoed. The book opens in the early 1950s, when a laborer walking with his 10-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter from their village to Kabul tells them a parable of a man who gives up his most beloved child to a monster to save the family as a whole. Within a few days the 10-year-old realizes the story was his father's way of telling him that he was about to sell the little girl to the childless family served by his brother-in-law. The little boy had cared for his baby sister since the death of their mother and his loss is great. The little girl is too young to remember her first life as she grows up, but knows something is missing from her personal narrative. Her brother, on the other hand, is old enough that he can never forget.
Hosseini writes so vividly of life in Afghanistan that reading his books feels like being a fly on the wall. In this instance, there are also sections set in Greece, Paris, and the U.S., but Afghanistan, with all its turbulence, is its heart and home. There are other reviews that provide actual synopsis information, and I won't do that here, although I will admit that the book is occasionally disjointed. But that's not necessarily a criticism, which readers will realize when they read the chapters written from the perspective of an adolescent boy whose father is considered a local Afghani hero. I don't want to say more and spoil it for anyone, but the impact of this section of the book would have been sorely diminished had it been written about in a more linear fashion.
This is a book in which to immerse yourself. I recommend doing what I did. Set aside a weekend. Turn off your phone. Make sure you have Kleenex handy, and simply submit to Hosseini's masterful storytelling, to the emotions he evokes so effortlessly. When I finished reading, I had to give myself awhile to come back to the real world from the one he imagined and created for me to experience. It took several hours, but it was worth it.(less)