Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

This is our book club selection for January.  It is the  third book
of Khaled Hosseini’s.  He is the well-known author of The Kite
and A Thousand Splendid Suns.  He once spoke to our
book group when he was on tour in 2004 with his brand new
best seller, The Kite Runner.  He left Afghanistan when he was 11
years old, but continues to write about it, and goes back frequently
to visit and do research.  This book exemplifies the attributes of
identity and nationhood of a country torn apart for years.

The title was drawn from a poem of William Blake’s–The Nurse’s Song:

“When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast
And everything else is still.

‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
Til the morning appears in the skies.’

‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’

‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d
And all the hills echoèd.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  .

It’s kind of a stretch—that last line there . . . the one we’re
supposed to pay attention to–but say “echo ED” and you’ll
have the rhyming word with ‘bed’.  And hey, Blake’s published
and I’m not so who am I to complain?

There are books about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters,
but this one is about brothers and sisters—a nice slant on families
and what is held deep within.  When people think back to
memories of the old days, it’s nice to know one has a sister or
brother who can also remember—who was *there*, too!

This book was a tiny bit slow starting, but worth the jaunt into
the nighttime routines of the Afghan father and his children.  He
would tell them stories and they would drift off to sleep.  The young
boy, Abdullah, has a little sister, Pari and they are very close.  A
tragic event separates them, and thus the story of  And the
Mountains Echoed  begins.    (“echoED”  heh-heh)

From then on, the story sticks with you.  And probably some
of the chapters refer to Hosseini’s own life, told through other
narrators.  Once when the character Idris, an American doctor,
visits Afghanistan he is deeply affected by conditions there.
When he returns to California, his friends remark that it must
a culture shock to visit Afghanistan–but he remarks that “the
real culture 
shock has been coming back to the US.”

We travel through the book meeting about nine characters,
one by one, each chapter being narrated by one.  And they
are related in the story–so we learn more about them, from
their own viewpoint.  The ending is done well, and I’m also
happy to say, not perfectly.

Khaled Hosseini is a very good author and his descriptions
and details are flawless.

” . . .a rice grain’s gap between her upper front teeth . . .”

and in a particularly moving part when a daughter is leaving
. . .“Everything will remind me of you.”

When I read about the history of the people of Afghanistan, and
the years of war and poverty—the title of this book makes sense
to me–in that, the mountains of Afghanistan always stood silent,
unchanging, and perhaps echoing the strife.  That’s what  And
the Mountains Echoed as the title means to me.

Hosseini is a good writer and can weave a good story.  I think our
book club will have a favorable report on Tuesday night.  I’ll add
a postscript to let you know.

Well, there you are—what do I know?  Only one member
loved the book!  The others felt it was a bit disjointed in
structure and were depressed by the sadness and poverty.
Still, they thought it was gripping and shared another side
of the history of Afghanistan.

Next month–on February 17th, we’ll discuss Townie: A Memoir
by Andre Dubas III.  He is the son of the author Andre Dubas,
and writes about his upbringing, separated from his famous
father and struggling in a poor neighborhood in Massachusetts.



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