Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed
And the Mountains Echoed is the third book from author Khaled Hosseini and many who know me (if you talk books with me) know that The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are two of my favorite books. And the Mountains Echoed was published over two years ago, but I just got around to reading it and finished it yesterday. I started to read it a few times over the past two years but things always came up and I would start something else to read and so this book kept getting put on the back burner. But I’m so glad I took this book back out and read the whole thing.
And the Mountains Echoed is a different kind of book from Hosseini’s previous two novels. Instead of following one (or two) main protagonists, this novel is made up of a few different stories. At the core of the story is Abdullah and his little sister Pari. The story begins in 1952 in a small village in Afghanistan and ends in 2010 in California & France. Although the core of the story is about Abdullah and Pari, they are not in the story the whole time. At least not really. The novel tells the stories of not just this brother sister pair but other people around them and even people that they didn’t even realize connect the two of them. The stories all interlock and span years and generations. The way Hosseini weaves the stories together is beautiful and all serve to illustrate the happiness and tragedy that life brings. Some of it is brought on by ourselves and some things are beyond our control.
I enjoyed all of the stories, but some more than others. The story about Idris annoyed me a little bit. Idris and his cousin Timur lived across the street from Abdullah’s step-uncle in Kabul. Abdullah’s step-uncle, Nabi, had a story of his own. Without giving anything away, he was the chauffeur and servant to the Wadhati family in Kabul. The reason Idris’ story annoyed me was that I wanted him to basically stop being chicken and take charge of something for once. His character was essentially a very good person. He was kind and intelligent. More honest, innocent, and kind than his cousin Timur. They immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan and Idris becomes a doctor. He’s a successful doctor, has a nice house and is married with children. But when it comes down to actually helping someone in need he shrinks away. And he knows it. It really bothered me how his story played out, but I suppose his story is relatable and all too common. People often try or want to help others but when the person or the situation is so far removed from our every day lives, the issue seems farther and farther away with each passing day.
The other story I did not like that much was not because it annoyed me like Idris’ but because it felt incomplete and I wanted to know what happened! Abdullah and Pari had a younger, half-brother. Abdullah ends up in America and Pari ends up in France – and if you read you know how that happens. But Iqbal, the half-brother, is more of a mystery. In this chapter we learn through his young son that they just returned to Afghanistan from a refugee camp in Pakistan. How did he get separated from Abdullah? Why didn’t he go to America with his brother? It is also a little bit of a mystery what happens to Iqbal and his family. Your imagination can make guesses, at least for Iqbal – not sure about his wife and children, but we’re never given real answers or closure on his story.
Because the novel is made up of these interweaving stories, while I found the novel to be good it made it easier to not get too emotional because I wasn’t as invested in the characters since there were so many stories. That’s not to say I didn’t get sad reading it because I did. But since each chapter was about a different character I wasn’t attached to one protagonist throughout the novel. I will say that the final chapter is the one that made me the most sad. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say life isn’t fair. You can go through so much in life – so much that could’ve broken you down and torn you apart but somehow you survive. You survive long enough to maybe get a happy ending after all, but life has a way of playing one last trick on you. It can be considered bittersweet or cruel. That’s up to you as the reader.
I’ll leave you with a few quotes that really touched me in And the Mountains Echoed. I wanted to choose quotes that were profound, true, and/or touching but didn’t give anything away about the story.
“When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.”
“For minutes, neither of us spoke a word. It breathed between us, what he had said, the pain of a life suppressed, of happiness never to be.”
“They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”
“To intentionally unsteady and upend her, to turn her into a stranger to herself, to heave the weight of doubt on her mind, on all Pari thought she knew of her life, to make her feel as lost as if she were wandering through a desert at night surrounded by darkness and the unknown, the truth elusive, like a single glint of light in the distance flickering on and off, forever moving, receding.”
“I learned that the world didn’t see the inside of you, that it didn’t care a whit about the hopes and dreams, and sorrows, that lay masked by skin and bone. It was as simple, as absurd, and as cruel as that.“
“It’s a funny thing, Markos, but people mostly have it backward. They think they live by what they want. But really what guides them is what they’re afraid of. What they don’t want.”
” ‘ You couldn’t tell looking at him. He was a hard man. But I think, yes, I think he was sad inside.’ ‘Are you?’ My father would smile and say, ‘Why should I be when I have you?’ but, even at that age, I could tell. It was like a birthmark on his face.”
I know, that’s quite the handful of quotes, but that’s bound to happen when a book is over 400 pages long! Overall, I enjoyed the book though I wish there could’ve been a happy ending for all. I recommend this book if you are a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s other works or if you are a fan of heart wrenching stories of the sacrifices and heartbreak that people endure because of choices they make and choices made for them. Some things are of your own making and some are thrust upon you.
I really hope Khaled Hosseini has another book in the works because I would definitely read it!