This was a new and interesting departure from Hosseini’s other two novels. Many elements were the same, of course. The Afghan-centered, decade spanning, family based stories were there, but this is somewhat larger in scope as it spirals out from its central characters to encompass everyone and everyplace around them. It reads almost like a collection of short stories, though connected ones, and that aspect may have contributed to my feeling it lacked the emotional impact of Hosseini’s other work. It wasn’t all that disappointing though: I still found it poignant and enjoyable to read. 4/5 stars.
Between the loss of their mother and a somewhat distant relationship with their father and new stepmother Abdullah and Pari are a brother and sister pair with a very close bond. And The Mountains Echoed follows what happens to them from their early years in poverty in a village in 1950’s Afghanistan to the events and the people that separate them throughout the long decades up to today. Each long chapter is a different character’s story, each exploring a unique relationship, often between caretaker and receiver, parent and child, finding new situations in which people help or hurt each other, or, most often, both simultaneously.
And the Mountains Echoed was my January TBR Jar draw. My mom bought it to read herself, and, even though she DNF’d it, I rescued it from her Goodwill purge of our family’s communal bookshelves a few months back. I’m very glad I did, as I enjoyed Hosseini’s storytelling once again, though in its somewhat fragmented style, this book doesn’t pack quite the emotional punch that some scenes in The Kite Runner or even A Thousand Splendid Suns do.
As ever, I love the way Hosseini composes his characters. Not one is perfectly good or perfectly evil. Mostly good characters still have their moments of selfish weakness or are inactive in critical moments where action is required. Mostly bad characters have redeeming qualities or at least something that provokes sympathy for them. They’re all human and they manage to be surprisingly complex, considering that most characters are only around for a few pages at a time.
The perspective changing was something I both liked and didn’t. As I mentioned, it took some of the emotion out of it as it was hard to really latch in to a character when you knew you wouldn’t be reading them for long. It did, however, allow the novel to explore many situations without putting one character through an unrealistic amount of significant events. The majority of the stories focused around the theme of care-giving and the power that people have to harm and help each other, and each one gave a different spin on the theme. A handful of them didn’t seem to jive as well with the others, but mostly, it seemed to work well for the narrative as a whole.
Overall, I liked this a lot and I think it was worth the read. It is a little tough to get into and stick with, especially at first when things start jumping around and you’re not used to it yet. It all comes together at the end for a conclusion that is both moving and brutal in its realism. Realism is the hallmark of the story though, in its complexity and broad, interconnected scope. If you are a fan of Hosseini’s other novels and haven’t yet picked this up, I do think you should give it a shot, though it may not be what you expect. Anyone looking for a well-composed, character-centric contemporary novel will like it as well, so add it to your list.