Review: ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini

Where to begin? I adored ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, ‘Kite Runner’ broke my heart, and now there’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Whilst it definitively cannot be called my favourite of Hosseini’s trio, it’s beautiful in its own way and certainly has its emotionally crippling moments…

…until the end, that is. I need to get it out of the way, and begin at the end, which was in all honesty an anticlimactic disappointment. I accepted that, being a Hosseini book, happily ever after couldn’t be a legitimate possibility, but the mundane details of the final chapter were too much to bear. I didn’t need Pari and Abdullah to run into one another’s arms basked in the glow of sunset, but some form of closure was needed on their relationship, and instead it felt very hollow in its lack of intimacy.

Likewise, I felt disappointed in Markos and Idris’ stories – they were characters I felt bonded to in their fighting-underdog mannerisms, and yet they were just left without any form of reconciliation with the world around them, or with the main storyline. It was a shame for such compelling characters to be left dangling without resolution after building the foundations of their lives for the reader.

But again, remember the end is where I began. The rest of this book made me want to cry at the sheer beauty of it. In all honesty, the beginning was my favourite bit – the allegory of the div (a sort of monster) taking a child from a family and the father’s struggle to get him back and be freed of guilt was absolutely haunting, but simultaneously so beautiful I wanted to cry. Follow this up with the story of Pari and Abdullah and you’re a wreck before you even reach the third chapter. It’s something Hosseini is masterful at, crafting devastatingly beautiful familial relationships. Indeed, Pari’s future relationship with her adoptive mother, Nila, is crushing in its failure to launch and the consequences of this. Parwana and Masooma’s unspoken sibling rivalry is the final in the triad of loving yet emotionally burdened relationships, again a haunting indictment of the life-altering power of sibling relationships.

It’s a different take on his earlier writing, where we follow one story through to its completion, and in some ways this works; seeing a tangle of lives altered by intertwining circumstances reminds us how everything has far-reaching and potentially damaging consequences (just think about Iqbal’s fate). In some ways, though, it doesn’t, but I suppose this depends entirely on your own personality – are you someone who prefers to be an onlooker in a segment of life, or wants to see it through to completion? I suppose, in a sense, this means there’s something for every type of reader, and regardless of your investment, there is (as with any Hosseini book) the promise of an intense emotional impact after reading, and the mountains echo their message across its readership for longer than it takes to read the book.

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