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Monday, September 23, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Title: And The Mountains Echoed 
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Date:  2013
Price: Rs. 599

Snapshot: This time Khaled Hosseini brings to us another story from his land Afghanistan. This story does not have the Taliban times described at length. Its about relationships and feelings that last over time and conditions and prevail above every situation. It is also a great piece of writing in terms of understanding of the human nature at its utmost complexity, the difference between wanting and doing and the workings of the mind and heart on the road in between. 

The Story:  The beginning of this book is a blockbuster, a story within a story told by a poor father to his children an elder ten year old son Abdullah and a two year old daughter Pari, on the way from a small village Shadbagh in Afghanistan to the capital city Kabul. Little do they know the fairy tale would be their life someday. That soon they would be separated and the poor father would dell his daughter to the family her step uncle is a servant of for money. They are inseparable and though Pari slowly forgets her old family, being too small and begins to consider that the couple who adopted her are her real parents. Their father does cut the chords with Nabi, their uncle who he believes was the root cause of implanting the very idea in his mind. Here we loose all connections between them and the story comes to a halt.

The author now begins with a letter from Nabi to the current occupant of the bungalow whose owners were the couple who adopted Pari, the Wahadati's. Mrs Nila Wahadati leaves Afghanistan soon after her husband gets Paralysis with her daughter Pari to France. The husband who is now discovered to be having secret romantic love for Nabi, is left with him as Afghanistan goes through war and till he dies. Khaled Hosseini always has some sexual secret in his books and this is it. Post his death he leaves all his property to Nabi, who decides to give it to his niece Pari. Therefore he leaves this letter for Mr. Markos through which the author fills in some gaps.

Then he goes to the next part where Nila now in Paris saved her daughter Pari from the Afghan crisis, but still is unhappy with her. When she passes away Pari discovers how much her mother hated her, that her father had preference for men through one of her interviews. Pari grow to become a Mathematics professor but always feels a hollow. She feels something in her life is incomplete though she cannot answer that. Just around the time she finally decides she should go to Afghanistan, to her roots to get her answers, she meets the love of her life, gets married and discovers she is pregnant. After her kids, the hollowness in her life does decrease, though not lost completely. In this phase I particularly felt that when Pari was dating guys it all went slow and then zoom the author moves to fast suddenly into her having a family. I have doubts it might be the editors job too.

However the slow pace begins now when there is the story of victims of the Afghan situation and foreigners who come and help them. It is depicted by story of Idris who wishes to do everything to adopt an Afghan girl and get her brain damage surgery done, when he returns to Afghanistan. However when he returns back to the U.S his schedule occupies him and slowly it becomes just one of the stories you heard. The author draws a very comprehensive picture of human nature here and though you find this part unconnected with the rest of the story, the philosopher in you will love it.

The story then goes to the current day in Afghanistan and we know from another story that Abdullah's step brother migrated to Pakistan during the war but when all is over and he returns back, his land is illegally taken over by a very rich man, whose image is that of one doing great charity. His story is seen through the eyes of his younger son almost worshiping him and his soul searching and acceptance of fate when he understands his father truth. The end of this chapter shows that nothing had truly changed in Afghanistan, just that the enemy was your man this time.

The circle is complete in the last half when the story comes back to Abdullah who has moved to USA. Will the two meet? This part tells you a lot about ones connection to ones root , no matter if you don't technically remember it, it stays within you for life.

The Review:

Positives:  If this were published as a philosophy on human nature, it would have been amongst the greatest piece of work ever. However if one compares it as a fiction with Khaled Hosseini's previous works that touched your souls and shook it, this one fails to create such an impact. As I said before the human nature is beautifully been researched upon and I cant come to imagine that an author can draw his characters so deep. 

Negatives:  The style of narration is different. The book is divided into parts and through some bits we try to solve the puzzle. Its all in flashback. I don't know why author chose this style. He might have enjoyed the challenge writing it but I would have preferred the flow of continuation as was in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Also, the story is predictable and doesn't have the Hosseini's boom that one experienced in his previous works. 

The Verdict: If you love philosophy and a huge Khaled Hosseini fan like me, do try this one. If you are looking for more about stories based in Afghanistan only the first part will interest you. The Rating is 3.5 on 5.

About the Author:
Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan-American author. He is currently the Goodwill Envoy for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

He has written two books, which are The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Hosseini was born in Kabul in 1965, to a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and a teacher. He was raised in Kabul for the first eighteen years of his life, after which the family relocated to Paris, and eventually to San Jose, California. He finished high school in 1984, after which he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Santa Clara University in 1988 and an M.D. from the School of Medicine, University of California, in 1993. He practiced medicine for almost ten years. He lives in North California, with his wife Roya and two children.

I thank Bloomsburry Publishers for a review copy.

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