Being an avid reader of Khaled Hosseini, with A Thousand Splendid Suns ranking as one of my all time favorite books (reviewed here), I eagerly looked forward to reading his newest novel, And the Mountains Echoed.
The premise of it seemed interesting enough, it was said to be an intricate story of multiple tales woven together, all connected in one way or another. Like his two other novels, it is set in Afghanistan from the 1950s to the early 2000s.
It follows the love and power of siblings and family, focused mainly on the brother and sister of a poor family. The father of this family has to sell his little daughter to a wealthy childless family for much-needed money, although it breaks his heart to do so. The bond between the brother and sister, named Abdullah and Pari, is strong and unbreakable, even when they are separated. The book (somewhat) follows their lives, as well as the tales of others who supposedly bear some connection to them and the plot.
The rest of the novel is divided into the point of views of a few other people – the children’s stepmother, Parwana; her brother Nabi; his neighbors Idris and Timur; Pari herself; a boy named Adel; and finally Abdullah’s daughter.
The beginning of the story, with Abdullah and Pari was what I liked best. It was undoubtedly the most interesting and complex – it was written exceptionally well, from the fable their father told them, to their separation. The siblings’ relationship was one of my favorite elements of the novel. Ten year old Abdullah was practically like a father to wide-eyed three year old Pari who clung to and admired her older brother. He was the epitome of the perfect brother. When they got separated, you could feel the devastating loss through Hosseini’s skilled writing abilities. The first few chapters kept me wanting to read more, compelled to know what happened next, and experiencing a special connection with the characters.
Unfortunately however, the extent of that only lasted until then. After the first few chapters, I was left sorely disappointed. The stories of Parwana and Pari were interesting enough, but the others were far from it. I was left rather bored and uncaring of Idris and Timur (they seemed to have no real connection or relevance to the story) and of Adel. In my opinion, the novel would have been far better if it had omitted the confusing switching point of views, which was often irrelevant, and simply stuck to Abdullah and Pari and their lives.
This book had so much potential and could have been another of my favorites from Hosseini but the odd dynamic of unrelated characters combined with minimal focus on the siblings made it an unfortunate disappointment.
However, if you find the plot intriguing and would like to give it a try, by all means go for it! I may not have thoroughly enjoyed it, but my taste differs from others, and you might find yourself liking it!
-Rachel L., 10th grade