And The Mountains Echoed: A Book Review

In June, I attended Warwick’s and Words Alive’s presentation of Khaled Hosseini In Conversation. His most recent novel, And the Mountains Echoed, was published at the beginning of this year. Hosted at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla, local Hosseini fans filled the rooms of the auditorium with books in hand. Having never read a Hosseini novel before, I found myself amongst die-hards. His previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, had long peaked my interest but had not reached my bookshelf.  And the Mountain Echoed would be my first.

It wasn’t far along in the talk before I found myself crushing hard on this salt-and-pepper Afghan author and philanthropist.  Hosseini was walking history.  Having left jewelled Kabul as a young boy to live in Paris and beginning his adulthood in the United States. All experiences that became embedded in the stories of his new novel.

During his talk, Hosseini offered a cautionary note to his readers, “This isn’t a book to be read on the beach.” Right he was.  The novel reads like a patchwork quilt; chapters that serve as stand alone works of art that transform the reader into a witness to a catalyst moment in a character’s life. Yet with each patch, the themes of the novel are fabricated to unveil a lesson in unrecouped pasts and ever-changing futures.

The novel is framed between two poignant moments in the lives of a brother and sister whose futures are dramatically impacted by the decisions of others. The tremors of that impact unknowingly change the lives around the two siblings throughout their lifetime.  As a result, the novel treats each character as a protagonist and antagonist, calling attention to the power of one’s decision on the lives of their loved ones or even acquaintances. No one is a saint and every sinner has a heart. Hossieni gives the reader the gift of various perspectives and deep character development as the reader and the character come to the realization that they have the capacity to exercise both good and evil in their lifetime.

The changing settings have photographic qualities, yet are full of texture and presence like a painting. The culture of each location is not forgotten or discarded. Instead the setting plays an important role in unveiling the characters’ political and social perspectives.

The reader is taken on a journey to witness the humanity and humility in the lives of characters that in essence are not so different from our own journey.  The characters work hard, make the best decisions they can, and love their families.

At the end of the talk, I waited patiently in line with my first Hosseini novel in hand and a blushing grin on my face for my turn to thank him for his time.

“This will be my first novel of yours that I read.”

As he signs my copy, he looks up at me with a smile framing perfect white teeth and offers,

“Good luck.”