And The Mountains Echoed: A Novel. Khaled Hosseini. May 2013. Penguin Group (USA). 416 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9781594631764.
There are many kinds of poverty, financial poverty and mental/emotional poverty the most obvious herein. What people do and become to surmount these formidable obstacles is the essence of Hosseini’s latest novel. It is in the early 1950s in an Afghan town called Shadbagh. Abdullah and Pari are the children of Saboor who begins this story by telling them the story of a young boy who is stolen by a djin. Little does the boy Abdullah, who loves his father’s tales, realize that his sister Pari will be sold within the week to his step-Uncle Nabi’s employers, Mr. Wahdati and his wife Nila. Nila is a central focus for most of this story as she is a famous poet but intensely unhappy woman. After her husband has a stroke, she will leave him to live in Paris with Pari. At this point, one wonders how Abdullah and Pari will ever find each other, given their phenomenal closeness before their separation.
After they leave, Nabi takes care of Mr. Wahdati, even after he discovers a secret that almost made him leave. We then hear of another sibling story between Parwana (stepmother to Abdullah and Pari; their father’s second wife) and her sister Masooma who had a horrific accident and makes a decision that Parwana must carry out, one that frees both sisters from a life of being burdened by each other. This aspect cuts to the soul of the reader, requiring a courage and sense of self that is true albeit more poignant than words can express.
Then we hear the story of a young boy whose father is narco wealthy, who makes his money from selling the poppy flower and who has bought the land in Shadbagh on which Abdullah and Pari grew up. A family member inherited the property but was cheated out of it by the wealthy but generous man.
The bond between Nila and Pari is explored next. Pari truly understands her mother but it doesn’t make it any easier, especially as Pari always has this feeling like something is “missing.”
The story of Markos’ friendship with a young girl is heartrending but beautiful as well. The young girl has been permanently disfigured by a dog bite; and though totally revolted initially, Markos and Thalia grow as close as siblings and remain so their entire lives, especially in their connection to other characters in this fictional tapestry.
A reunion will end this novel, one that will initiate a freedom for the daughter of Abdullah, who wound up in America running an Afghan barbecue restaurant but is now old and ailing and his sister Pari.
So much can be said about this story of real and evolving sibling relationships. Though not quite as violent as Hosseini’s previous two novels, there are fierce moments but more of a sense of honesty, integrity and endurance that truly evolves into bonds of connection equal to and greater than siblings. No, I haven’t by any means given away the whole story; there is so much more in these pages that is compelling, intriguing, brutal, funny, tender and just sheer beautiful. Khaled Hosseini is a literate fine, fine writer and this book is his best yet!!!! This reviewer hated it to end and is hoping Hosseini will keep writing which he does so magnificently!!!! This novel deserves multiple awards for its greatness! Enjoy every line, every page!