I think I am one of the few readers on the planet who has not read Khaled Hosseini's previous works - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. With the release of his third novel, And The Mountains Echoed, I thought it was time to sample this best selling author.
And the Mountains Echoed opens in 1952 with an Afghani father telling his son and daughter a fable - the story of a parent's love for his child, fighting off a div (ogre) who claims children from their village. The father loses one of his children to the div, but cannot stop thinking about him. After many years, the father goes to the div's palace to reclaim his son, but the child is now living a life of privilege and happiness. The div offers the father the chance to reclaim his child, but does he really want to take him back to a life of poverty and hardship?
"You are a cruel beast, Baba Ayub said. When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color."
And that fable sets the stage for the rest of the book. In the next chapter, the storytelling father sells his daughter to a wealthy family, separating his son and daughter. They have shared an incredible bond in their short lives. Is that bond every truly broken? Can the echoes of their love follow them and stay with them?
Hosseini takes us on a wide, sweeping, encompassing journey touching on all who play a part or touch the lives of the two children - from childhood to old age. As it's base the story is about the two children, but Hosseini builds wonderfully rich tales around many of the other characters. In that sense, the book has many lead characters, spanning countries and time lines. (I have to say, one of my personal favourites was Odelia, one character's Greek mother. Her sense of right and purpose was inspiring.) At least one character in And The Mountains Echoed will touch or stand out for every reader. Not every character is sympathetic, but all elicit a reaction.
The narrative often skips from one character to another and from one time period to another. I did find myself having to reestablish who was who and the connections a few times. Some threads are left unfinished and I was left wondering what might have happened to some players. Although, that certainly may have been Hosseini's intent. Each story leaves an impression or an echo on the next, stringing a thread of connectedness between all.
As I said, this is my first introduction to Hosseini. I loved his language and the pictures, images and stories he creates with his words. Very powerful. Penguin Canada also thinks his prose elicit pictures and to that end, they've created something pretty neat - The Echo Project.
"Experience And the Mountains Echoed through the eyes of Khaled's editors; his biggest fans; visual artists; poets; photographers; and even a few notable Canadians you know well. One of the 402 pages could even be created by you. We're collecting these unique interpretations, page-by-page, and sharing them in one digital experience, unlike any other." Canadians - Submit your own own entry.
Read an excerpt of And The Mountains Echoed. You can find Khaled Hosseini on Facebook and on Twitter.