Penguin Group Canada|May 21, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-690-06751-0
Khaled Hosseini is one of the most widely read and beloved novelists in the world.
His novels have sold more than 38 million copies worldwide. Now, six years after A Thousand Splendid Suns debuted at #1, spending fourteen consecutive weeks at #1 and nearly a full year on the hardcover list, Hosseini returns with a book that is broader in scope and setting than anything he’s ever written before.
A multigenerational-family story revolving around brothers and sisters, it is an emotional, provocative, and unforgettable novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. With profound wisdom, insight and compassion, Hosseini demonstrates once again his deeply felt understanding of the bonds that define us and shape our lives – and of what it means to be human.
In 1952, Pari, 3-years-old and Abdullah, 10-years-old were told a story at bedtime about how divs and jinns and giants used to roam the earth. A farmer named Baba Ayub lived in a village called Maidan Sabz and every day he toiled hard to feed and care for his family of 5 children: 3 sons and 2 daughters and his wife. His favourite child was his 3-year-old, Quais. Quais was a little boy with blue eyes and charmed anyone who met him while he worked his devlish laughter. One day a div came to their village from the direction of the mountains and the earth shook with each of his footfalls. The villagers dropped everything and ran. Whichever home the din tapped his fingers on the roof of meant that family had to give up one of their children to him. If they didn’t decide by the following morning, then the din would take all the children in the house and return to his moutaintop home. Baba Ayub was beside himself with grief on how to decide which of his children to give away in order to save the other four. He finally wrote their 5 names on stones, deposited them into a bag, reached in and pulled out one stone. It bore the name of his beloved Quais. He cried, shook, and bellowed at the sadness and injustice, but the din took, Quais away to his mountaintop home never to be seen again.
Father had never hit Abdullah before so when he did, tears of surprise came to his eyes. They were walking across the desert from their village of Shadbagh to Kabul. Abdullah had lost his mother 3 years ago while she was giving birth to Pari. Now they had their stepmother, Parwana and Abdullah wished he could love her the same way he loved his mother. We learn they are taking this trek across the desert so father can sell Pari to a childless couple who were wealthy. The deal was brokered by his own brother. Abdullah took this especially hard for Pari was the very essence of his soul.
Parwana had a sad life too, she has a 1-year-old son, Iqbal, but her second baby, Omar had died of the cold winter before last. He was only 2-weeks-old. Parwana and Abdullah’s father had barely named him. He was one of three babies that brutal winter had taken in Shadbagh. He knew Parwana loved her own children better than she loved Abdullah and Pari, but most parents loved their own children first, and he didn’t blame her for that, as to her, Abdullah and Pari were another woman’s leftovers.
Father was getting tired of pulling the wagon across the desert sand so Abdullah took over for a while. They were going to Kabul too, so father could work. Uncle Nabi, who was Parwana’s older brother, was a cook and a chauffeur in Kabul. Once a month he drove from Kabul to visit them in Shadbagh, his arrival announced by the honks of the big blue car he drove. It was on his last visit that Uncle Nabi told Father about the job. The rich people he worked for were building an addition to their home – a small guesthouse in the backyard, complete with a bathroom, separate from the main building – and Uncle Nabi had suggested they hire father, who knew his way around a construction site. He said the job would pay well and take a month to complete.
Abdullah new baby Omar’s death bothered him constantly. If he’d had more money then he would have been able to buy the baby warmer clothing and keep the house heated. He poured everything he had in him into every job he got as if this would help atone for his lack of being able to properly provide for his family.
Pari, settles into her new family with the wealthy couple, Nila and her rather strange husband, Suleiman Wahdati. Nila is a wild and provocative woman and Suleiman is quite introverted never having much to do with Pari. Suleiman eventually suffers a stroke and Nila picks up Pari and escapes to France where her mother was born and leaves Nabi the chauffeur behind to care for him.
There are other characters we meet in this story and each one is has a broken bond with someone. It is a story of family and what families can do to each other and how those disasters can reverberate down through the generation to come. And the Mountains Echoed gracefully unravels how tradition, culture, and sense of place affect the human heart, it celebrates the joys and boundaries of storytelling.
Khaled Hosseini is one of the most joyful and expansive writers around! I’ll be keeping this novel as part of my permanent collection.