Yesterday I did something which I just have to write about , simply because it was something I hadn’t done in a long, long time and am not likely to do in a long , long time either; I just happened to read a book cover-to-cover in not only a single day but in just over three hours.With most of my reading confined these days to quick glances at the newspapers, details on medicines and shorter still labels of packaged food, I find it difficult to concentrate on more than 1000 words at a stretch. So when a book grabs my attention, it must have something to say for it.
“And the Mountains Echoed”, Khaled Hosseini‘s latest book landed up on my bedside table purely by accident and came on my radar even more accidentally (I saw it under the pile of stuff that needed dusting). But it was a happy accident one which I wouldn’t mind having again. Ever since he burst onto the literary scene with “A Kite Runner“, Khaled Hosseini has managed to establish himself as a master story teller who keeps your interest from start to finish. As usual this book is based on Afghanistan with its background of war and poverty.
The story of Abdullah and Pari begins with a folk tale retold by their father in the simple almost lyrical style of a village narrative. This story of a parent who had to make an unfortunate choice seems to be the leitmotif of sorts that our lives are ruled by difficult choices which in effect leave us with no choice at all as all of the characters in the book are faced with. As the father and his two children walk from the remote Afghanistani village of Shadbagh to Kabul, the father comes across as an indifferent man burdened by his circumstances but as the story progresses, we find that he did the best that he could possibly have done. Similarly, we find Nila, Suleiman and Nabi making choices they had no option but to make. And so also the case of the cousins Idris and Timur and all the other characters who make up this tale.
The story unfolds slowly with each character pulling it forward till it all comes together like a beautiful Afghan carpet of finely woven complex designs . Spanning several decades and crossing several cultures and continents, this book is a simple collection of different stories that are somehow woven together to make a complex whole. Hosseini moves effortlessly from the harsh Afghan countryside to the plush bungalows of Kabul, the duality of an immigrant’s life, the complexities of family relationships, the ravages of war and finally the closure of an event that started it all.
An easy read , “And the Mountains Echoed”, will appeal to lovers of family saga and is recommended for those who want to revive a flagging interest in the written word.