And the Mountains Echoed

Image of And the Mountains Echoed
Release Date: 
May 21, 2013
Riverhead Hardcover
Reviewed by: 

First came The Kite Runner in 2003 and the man whose words could first break then win a reader’s heart in a semi-colon captivated the world.

Then in 2007 came A Thousand Splendid Suns and again millions pored over tear-stained pages as their hearts plunged then soared. After this, the beloved Mr Khaled Hosseini made fans wait another six years before his third novel And the Mountains Echoed was ready to be eagerly snatched from the shelf (or downloaded) in May 2013. With around 40 million copies of his first two books sold in more than 70 countries, it is fair to say expectations were incredibly high.

That bar may have been placed too high.And the Mountains Echoed is written using beautiful but simple and unpretentious language and is filled with predominantly vivid, well-drawn characters and a strong sense of place(s).

Yet this complex and multilayered book doesn’t quite deliver the big emotional punch the reader anticipates and expects from Mr Hosseini.

This is likely because after some promising and riveting introductory scene setting told in the third person, the narrative shifts to the first person as a series of diverse—and initially, apparently unrelated characters—reveal their stories.

And the Mountains Echoed begins in 1952 with a poor Afghan father relating an allegorical story to his son and daughter. More devoted siblings one could not imagine, so when this desperate father gives away Abdullah’s sister, Pari, to a rich man in Kabul, it is as if a part of each of them has been physically torn from their very being.

The fallout from this one event cascades down through the years as we meet a roll call of very human, flawed, and vulnerable characters. One of Mr Hosseini’s great skills is to be able to deliver characters that should be unlikeable, yet somehow one empathizes with them; however, more than one character in And the Mountains Echoed could arguably have been dropped without destroying the finely woven tapestry.

If The Kite Runner was about father and son relationships, and A Thousand Splendid Suns about mothers and daughters, this latest book spans close and distant familial ties, friendship, and man’s inhumanity to man.

Yet when the combined sum of the parts is finally reached at end of the book, the resolution is less than satisfying, almost anticlimactic because the reader has waded through decades and continents to reach what is an imperfect ending.

A straight run at reading the entire book in a short period of time (or a second read) might ensure a firmer grasp on the many characters and their stories. The strength of the storytelling and the majesty of Mr Hosseini’s writing certainly justify taking the time to do this. Ultimately though this book is certainly as riveting as its predecessors, it is so for the wrong reasons.