Tuesday, May 30, 2017

[Review] And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Version: HC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Published: May 21st 2013

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
This book marks my completion of Khaled Hosseini's works, and now that I've read them all, I can do a comparative review. For my next review on Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, I can't even say the same, because it's the first book I've read by him!

But for both books, I feel similar feelings. While both authors craft beautiful stories and have such a marvelous usage of language, I am not quite sure of what to make of the story. 

And The Mountains Echoed differed from Hosseini's two other stories in that there were multiple POVs. There was not just two main characters on which we focused on, but numerous characters, all intertwined in the smallest of ways. One minor character, mentioned for just a sentence in one chapter, becomes the narrator of the next.

My qualm with this, and I noticed that other reviewers felt the same, is that each story leaves us wanting more. The strongest part of the book was the beginning, with Abdullah's, Parwana's, and Nabi's POVs. I wanted more of the story of Abdullah and his sister Pari. We only get small bits from the other POVs, and its simply not enough. One chapter is simply not enough to get to know each character, or at least form attachments to them. Nabi's chapter was perhaps the most compelling, because we see his guilt and his complex relationships with both Mr. and Mrs. Wahdati. There are minor subplots involving the Bashati cousins, another involving Commander Sahib's son and how he lives on the land that once belong to Abdullah's father Saboor and his family, and while beautifully written, made me crave more. It's simply not enough to contain all their stories to one chapter. 

I understand the meaning behind the points of view - how one life can connect to another in the most miraculous of ways, but still. The more I think of it, the more this book reminds me of Pulp Fiction

However, how can I rate this book lowly based on this alone? The ending itself was tragic, and made me cry. The story itself went full circle, and of course, it's Hosseini so it's a masterpiece of writing. The details are what catches you. Never too flowery, and always on point. 

Pari catches a glimpse of her reflection in the plate glass. Normally, especially of late, when she steps in front of a mirror an automatic mental process kicks into gear that prepares her to greet her older self. It buffers her, dulls the shock. But in the shopwindow, she has caught herself off guard, vulnerable to reality undistorted by self-delusion. She sees a middle-aded woman in a drab floppy blouse and a beach skirt that doesn't conceal quite enough of the saggy folds of skin over her kneecaps. The sun picks out the gray in her hair. And despite the eyeliner, and the lipstick that defines her lips, she has a face now that a passerby's gaze will engage and then bounce from, as it would a street sign or a mailbox number. The moment is brief, barely enough for a flutter of the pulse but long enough for her illusory self to catch up with the reality of the woman gazing back from the shopwindow. It is a little devastating. This is what aging is, she thinks as she follows Isabelle into the store, these random unkind moments that catch you when you least expect them. 

While not, in my opinion, the best of Hosseini's works, it still was a compelling story in its own right. 

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