And The Mountains Echoed / Khaled Hosseini

This novel opens in the year 1952 with a father telling his son and daughter a bedtime story.  It is a tale of a father risking his life to save his favorite child even if it means losing his own life.  The next morning, the father and his young daughter, Pari, leave their small Afghan village to begin a long trek on foot to Kabul.  But the older brother, Abdullah, who is devoted to his sister, refuses to remain at home and joins them.  Little do the children know that their father is taking the daughter to Kabul to give her up for adoption.  The father has been driven to do so because of the family’s desperate poverty.  Brother and sister afterwards will not meet again until 2010.  While the opening and closing chapters feature Pari and Abdullah, the ones in between not only focus on their separate life journeys, but also highlight individuals who have played a part in their lives, such as cousins, caretakers, and acquaintances.  Unlike Hosseini’s first two novels which focused primarily on Afghanistan, this family saga tells of refugees set adrift in the world.  The book takes the reader from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco, but Afghanistan remains front and center in the characters’ thoughts.  The novel touches upon a number of themes regarding the nature of families­—not only the wounds and betrayals they can inflict, but more importantly, the sacrifices and the bonds that cannot be broken among them, even by long years of separation.  Many of the characters have their entire life histories presented in a single chapter.  This gives it a feel of being a collection of short stories centering on a single theme.  These sections sometimes felt rushed, and having piqued my interest, I was left wanting more detail.  And at times the book’s dialogue felt a bit stilted.  Nonetheless, Hosseini has the ability to create characters the reader cares deeply about and empathizes with.  This story, while highlighting the heartbreak and sacrifice that often follows refugees, also shows the resilience and drive they possess to claim their place in the world.

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