And the Mountains Echoed is Khaled Hosseini’s third and latest book. The first one was The Kite Runner, followed by A Thousand Splendid Suns. I have read all three of them and have to say there are plenty of echoes of The Kite Runner in Hosseini’s latest novel.
Once again, this is a story of Afghan people – a poor family, a father who makes a hard choice, children separated for decades, promises broken, memories cherished and finally, the sweet moment of reconnection. There is forbidden love and a terrible family secret. The action takes place over a period of more than fifty years, spanning countries – from Afghanistan to France and the U.S. The story weaves its way from one character to the next – from inseparable siblings Abdullah and Pari, to their uncle Nabi, to Nabi’s employer and his wife, to a Greek doctor, and then back to the beginning.
The theme of the immigrant, something Hosseini has explored in The Kite Runner, is also present here. In fact the books are quite similar – children protagonists, a terrible secret, decades spent in another country, letters, emotions, family connections. Maybe that is why I felt this third novel followed a familiar pattern. Unfortunately, the raw emotions that were so powerful in The Kite Runner felt a bit forced here, a little too polished and glossed to fit the expectations of a western audience. Except for a brief moment or two that were unexpected, this time the story did not feel new but more like something written for an audience who was already familiar with the author’s previous work and expected more of the same. Maybe this is why I do not feel like going into too much detail. It’s a good story told in simple words which create vividly colored scenes – walking through a bazaar, an interview with a poet, brief moments of beauty and lingering sadness, but its beauty would probably be appreciated more by those who are not familiar with the author’s previous books.
There is a scene however which I enjoyed very much. In it, a boy takes a picture of a girl at the beach using a homemade camera. The boy has to count to one hundred and twenty before he drops the shutter but at intervals the author fast-forwards through the years and tells us what happened to the boy who wanted to be a photographer. By the time he drops the shutter we find out he has made a life altering decision as an adult. Then the story resumes its rhythm. I thought that was a beautifully executed scene, the numbers going up to the final scene, a crescendo of events marked by the passing of time, condensed in the space it takes to take a photograph.
I also liked the explanation behind the name of the book. I’m not going to say any more on that except that I am again impressed by how poetry has inspired so many great novels; Stephen King’s Dark Tower books and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire are just two names that come to mind.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but not as much as the previous two novels, which are quite different from each other. There lies their beauty.
My rating: 3/5 stars
Read in May-June 2015