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Khaled Hosseini’s catapult to success has occurred in a little over ten years. Since the popularity amongst both critics and the general public of The Kite Runner in 2003, Hosseini has sold over 38 million books worldwide and has had his debut adapted into a film by Marc Forster. His third novel, And The Mountains Echoed, rounds off a spectacularly good decade for the Afghan-American writer. Though described as a novel, And The Mountains Echoed is more of a collection of intertwining tales dealing with loss, friendship, and family.
When Abdullah and his little sister Pari travel with their father to Kabul, they imagine that they are just visiting the city whilst their father finds work. Yet when Pari is sold to a rich family in the city stories unfold from various characters’ perspectives, including Pari’s adopted mother and their uncle Nabi; And The Mountains Echoed is a torturous journey for the reader waiting for that moment when they will be reunited. Hosseini’s choice of title is certainly accurate; the mountainous area of Afghanistan described certainly does echo with the heart-breaking stories that he weaves.
And The Mountains Echoed is an emotional and highly enjoyable novel. The evocative characters portrayed, particularly the relationship between Pari and Abdullah, grab us from the moment that they take over the telling of the story, even if we are only with them for a few pages. The most gut-wrenching tale, however, comes from Idris, a doctor who fled Afghanistan for America with his family at the age of fourteen. He returns to Kabul, ingratiating himself into a hospital where he encounters Roshi who has been severely attacked by her uncle. The conflict between wanting to help Roshi and his lack of conviction to find a way to do so is beautifully portrayed by Hosseini and serves to remind the reader of the many children who still suffer in much the same way today.
This is what Hosseini is particularly skilled at – working within the war-torn setting of Afghanistan and the many issues that arise from the country’s situation. Whether he is dealing with characters who have endured the war in Kabul, tried to help those suffering, or who left Kabul and later return to claim their property, each narrative strand is dealt with sensitively and evocatively. Though clearly he is capable of this because of his own background, he also has the gift of convincing and gripping narratives that has made all of his novels successes.
The concern that I have about And The Mountains Echoed, and in fact Hosseini as a writer, is that he is becoming a bit of a one-trick pony. All three of his novels deal with character separation in Afghanistan; all three novels contain compiled narratives from various characters and in various manners, such as letters; and all three novels straddle at least three decades of Afghan history. Whilst Hosseini is successful at what he does, it is a worry that he is yet to branch out into something different with his writing. How long can he go writing in the same vein? And The Mountains Echoed is still, however, a fantastic read. If you have read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, you will not be disappointed with Hosseini’s third effort. For those of you who are yet to encounter Hosseini’s writing, you should definitely give this a go; it is 404 pages of brilliance.