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Friday, July 5, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review

Like most of the people who were caught in the 'Hosseini' wave of 'The Kite Runner' and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', I too was no exception.

What started as a crazy devouring of Khaled's books has now turned into a sort of reverence, a wait that's filled with millions of expectations and curiosity, an excitement on knowing about an upcoming book and waiting to lay my hands on it.

So it was that when I received courtesy Bloomsbury Khaled Hosseini's latest offering 'And The Mountains Echoed' , I sort of ended up doing a mad-reader jump dance....literally!

Before I get into a detailed review and tell you more about the book, here are a few details:

Title: And The Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
No. of Pages: 402
Publisher:  Bloomsbury
Cover Type: Hardcover and Paperback (I received the book right when it was launched in Hardcover)
Price: INR 599

Just a little bit I mentioned about the book here in another post....READ IT HERE

The thing with Khaled Hosseini is that he manages to bring out human stories in a way that will immediately touch your heart. While his The Kite Runner (2003) still seems to be the most favourite books out of all his works, my personal favourite amongst his works remains A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).

I know for a fact that no matter what he writes, no matter what anyone has to say, I, for one, shall always look forward to his books and wait patiently. It's another thing that once I do get his book that I've been so dying to read, it finishes off in barely 4-5 days (no, they are not small, they are 300-400 pages on an average; the reason I finish off them so fast is that I just have to turn the pages and read on and on, they are so gripping)....and once I do that, then it's another wait...and I get kind of sad that now, after waiting so long and finally reading his book, I'll have to wait all over again! :-(

The latest offering by Hosseini is no different - And The Mountains Echoed is laced with emotions after emotions, and if you've been able to judge anything by the cover by now, you can guess it's about a family, two siblings who are seen walking ahead holding on to a man (the father).

Here's what the story is about:

Though the book takes us through lots of inter-connected stories and human emotions, the main story is essentially of two siblings - 03-year-old Pari and 10-year-old Abdullah (or as Pari calls him in her baby lisp, Abollah).

The two children are born in poverty and live in a household that's steeped in utter poverty and decay - their father is a broke daily labourer. Making ends meet is a constant struggle and challenge, and the family survives from one part of the day to another, not sure where the next meal will come from, not sure if they will be able to survive yet another winter (Abdullah's 2-week-old stepbrother was frozen to death in the winter as they didn't have suitable clothes or supplies to sustain the winter).

While the children are living in poverty, the one thing that makes them smile and forget everything else is the bond they share and the love they have for each other. So, while little Pari finds every feather fascinating (anything from a sparrow to a pigeon to any bird or creature), her brother Abdullah will go to any lengths to make sure he gets these feathers for her, no matter how difficult it may be. One day he walks over to the next village without letting either his parents know, just because he has heard that someone there has a peacock feather that he can bring back. By the time he reaches back home, his feet are caked in dust and cut and bleeding, but the happiness he gets from holding up the single peacock feather to his sister is something that will bring tears to your eyes. These little kids, steeped in unbelievable poverty and filth, find treasures and joys in the simplest things in life, and that is again what's so magical about the world that Hosseini weaves.

But things are getting difficult, and the father must find a way to make ends meet for the family, and to let everyone in the family survive. What can he do? In the end, it's a deal that is made to let everyone survive and live a little better - sometimes, a finger must be cut to save the hand.

Throughout the story, Hosseini takes the reader through different characters, their stories, their emotions, different time zones and different places, but one thing that somehow manages to say connected throughout is the story of Pari and Abdullah, no matter what year, no matter what place.

Also, though the story takes you to different places, countries, times and homes, the settings are always believable. In any other case, this might have seemed quite disjointed, but Khaled Hosseini manages to retain the authenticity and flavour of each country, culture and time he visits and takes us through. So it is that you have a lovely mix of cultures, religions, history, characteristics and stories that are all so different from each other, but somehow, feel very put-together. Sure it can get complicated at times, with lots of flitting from here to there and back here then back there - but then again, it's a delightful travel through various spaces and stories that create the whole.

While some readers have felt there is a lot of sadness in the story, I beg to differ. Yes, of course there is sadness in the book - you have to give it to the author when he brings out stories from Afghanistan that they will essentially be sad - you can't take stories out of a raped, war-torn country and expect it to be happy and cheerful - no, that can't happen.

Some readers felt that there were too many stories involved, that this book was a different style from his previous works, but as a writer, I think that's what we should applaud about Hosseini - that he chose to write a bit 'different' from the way he created his previous works. And like the two before this, this too is a masterpiece, in my opinion.

There are many twists and turns in the plot and I will not divulge any of the story here for fear of spoilers...it's best you read them yourself.

One of the first thing that hit me when I started reading the book was the sheer brilliance by which Hosseini creates his stories - he is not just a storyteller, he is a spinner of words, that magical man who creates fables and if you read the first few pages, you'll get an idea of exactly what I am talking about. The moment you enter the pages it's as if you've entered a magical fairy land, though the irony is that the setting is far from anything 'fairy-ish' or magical, and rather, is broke, broken and steeped in poverty. Hosseini's narrative takes us to an all-new different realm where magic and reality mix together to create a heady combo!

There's no doubt that this work of Khaled Hosseini shall be on the bestseller list for a long long time as well. I'm just sad that the book ended so soon for me, and now there's going to be a long time of waiting all over again.

Do I recommend this book? OF COURSE !!! you can't miss this one!!!!

5/5 hearts from me!!!!

- Debolina Raja Gupta