Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains Echoed
Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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If you, like me, are already an established fan of Khaled Hosseini, having been drawn into this book through his other two phenomenal beyond belief novels (which I would give five out of five stars each, no question), know that this deviates in the composition and explores a new method of structuring the story. This isn't a bad thing, and I love the fact that Hosseini is expanding his skill sets while still keeping the core aspects of his novels and I'm very interesting in seeing what other new ideas he tries in future novels and what concepts he brings back. The main difference was that, rather than focusing on a few main characters and telling their stories throughout the course of the book, And the Mountains Echoed had a slew of characters, interconnected and crossing paths at various places and points in time, and like a series of short stories about a large cast of characters, told their tales, switching perspectives chapter after chapter, until it was over and all the loose ends were tied up. While I did prefer the style of writing in his previous two novels, this was in no way ineffective and I would still highly recommend reading it along with the rest of his works.

One thing that wasn't compromised and I give the highest compliments to is the writing itself. Hosseini's prose flows absolutely beautifully and his descriptions pull the reader into the story. Set in various places like Afghanistan, France and Greece and California, Hosseini paints vivid images of where the characters are physically and also which period of time they're in. Even when describing people, he has a certain florid quality. He doesn't just call a character plain looking, he says "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." Everything is detailed and said in a purposeful manner, and it is all artfully done.

The themes focused on in the novel ranged from the familial ones he wrote about in his previous novels to themes of love, depression, sexuality, morality. I thought the stories were gut-wrenching and I know saying I found myself crying might not mean much considering I've said that about a decent chunk of the books I've reviewed, but the narrative will honestly tug at your heartstrings. I appreciated that even though Hosseini didn't use one or two main characters as extended protagonists throughout, the emotional impact was not lost. There were some characters whose stories I was not as invested in as others, but with nine shifts in nine chapters, that is bound to happen, and there was never such a large gap in which I felt interest fading that I thought it detracted from the overall essence of the book. I felt Parwana's sorrow and guilt over Masooma. My heart ached with Abdullah's for Pari. I felt the emptiness inside Nila. Each character was so well developed that I felt their grief and anguish and also their happiness and joy. I also loved seeing the way the Afghan characters existed in places like Paris and San Francisco, how they went back to Afghanistan and for what reasons and what impact this had on them, whether it scratched only a superficial surface or went deeper to the bone. Another aspect of the characters I really enjoyed was seeing all the relationships in play. It was very interesting seeing how some characters reacted to things like depression -- in one case, there was blame of another character; or how characters hid their emotions for fear of reaction. One character built up an entire life but kept his sexuality a lie. It's also interesting the people you choose to protect or help out, even without obligation.

Honestly, so much happens in this book that just stating the names of the characters feels like a crime because they have so much history and so much that comes with them, that simply discussing them in terms of sorrow and anguish rips that from them. The only way to do their stories justice is to read the book, no plot summary can come close.

- Noor

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