And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

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.

And the Mountains Echoed 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

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17 Responses to And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

  1. Tracy Terry says:

    Yet to read any of this authors books. My reading group have read the first two books but having listened to their comments I didn’t think they were for me.

    Great, insightful review, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Tracy,
      I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel the same about books my friends recommend but occasionally I am pleasantly surprised.
      Thanks for coming by and for your comment.

  2. FictionFan says:

    Interesting! This is the only one of his books that I’ve read and I was completely blown away by it. I wonder if I’d have felt differently if I’d read the earlier ones first too. I’m planning to read The Kite Runner sometime soon, so I’ll be intrigued to see if reading this one affects how I feel about the earlier one

    • Delia says:

      Like I suspected, if this is your first Kahled Husseini novel, you might like it a lot. I found The Kite Runner a lot more emotional. It will be interesting to see your opinion once you’ve read this one too.

  3. Priya says:

    It’s sad that this book didn’t affect you like his others. Maybe the reason I enjoyed And the Mountains Echoed so much is because I barely remember The Kite Runner – I read it in a hurry a long time back and didn’t really do justice to it.
    I do love the scenes with the homemade camera and the counting up…

    • Delia says:

      Yes, it is sad in a way. It feels like the main idea behind this one was already explored in The Kite Runner. Sometimes I feel like it’s not fair to compare the two books but I can’t help it. 🙂

  4. Athira says:

    I haven’t read anything by Khaled Hosseini yet though I own both Kite Runner and Thousand Splendid Suns. I need to get to them soon before I find myself not wanting to read them because everyone loves it and I put high expectations on the books.

    • Delia says:

      I hope you’ll start with the earlier novels. The Kite Runner is truly a beautiful book; I stayed away from it for a while because of all the hype but when I read it I fell in love with it.

  5. TB Markinson says:

    I read his first one and really enjoyed it even though I cried through most of it. But I remember telling everyone they had to read it. However, I haven’t read his last two. Sounds like I should read the second first and then maybe this one.

    • Delia says:

      The first one was quite the book, I’m glad you also liked it. The second is good too – the protagonists are women this time. I hope you enjoy them both.

  6. Brian Joseph says:

    Great review Delia .

    I have nit read this author either. I would likely not start with this book but one of the others instead.

    I guess that a very successful novel would bring about the temptation to repeat some of what worked before.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,
      I agree with you on the temptation to repeat what has worked before, however I think it’s best if people remember a book because it was special in itself not because it was like the previous one. At least that’s how I feel.
      His previous novels were different from each other and I liked them both.
      If you do read either of them I’ll be curious to see what you think.

  7. Vishy says:

    Nice review, Delia. Sorry to know that you didn’t like this book as much as you had hoped to. Sometimes writers keep repeating the same plot again and again in subsequent books in different forms and it does tend to get repetitive from the reader’s perspective. I hope Hosseini comes up with a new plot when he writes his next book. I loved that scene you have described – on how the book talks about the boy’s story while he is taking the photograph. I think that would make a beautiful scene in a movie.

    • Delia says:

      I had high hopes for this one, Vishy. That scene was probably my favorite from the book. I am curious to see what his next book will be about.

  8. Deb Atwood says:

    Interesting review. I enjoyed The Kite Runner overall although I felt the climax was a little unrealistic. I loved the character arc of the protagonist and the way he was able to acknowledge his cowardice and make amends. Interestingly, the author lives only about an hour away from me (unless he’s moved, of course).

    I never read Thousand Splendid Suns. For some reason, the premise did not catch my attention.

    Like you, I love when titles are allusions to poems…like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, for instance.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deb,
      If you’d like to read something similar to The Kite Runner then this one might be for you. But since you kind of know what to expect, I doubt it will have the same impact. I really loved this quote: “For you, a thousand times over.” It shows such devotion…
      Interesting to know the author lives in your area. You might run into him one day. 🙂

      “A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a good book but hard in its depiction of the treatment of women.

      I didn’t know that about “The Grapes of Wrath”. With such a title, I should have suspected something.

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