With millions of copies of his books selling across the globe and his name as famous as any of his western contemporaries, Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini has firmly established himself as a force to reckon with in today’s publishing world. His previous offerings, ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ both enjoyed critical success and popular accolades from his readers globally.
His latest book, which I have just finished reading is called ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ has already become a global bestseller since its release in May, 2013. It continues to hold pride of place on many internet ‘Summer Must Read’ lists.
In the beginning of this novel one his characters remarks that ‘a story is like a moving train…wherever you hop on, you are bound to reach your destination’. Unlike a moving train that rattles along a fixed path however, Hosseini’s narrative is a complex web of twists and turns that take readers on a tour of old Kabul, modern San Francisco and decadent Parisian boulevards. Each chapter brings new characters and situations and it can be puzzling at first to figure out their relationship to previous characters or chapters.
Throughout the story, Hosseini masterfully explores themes such as love, fidelity, complex family relationships, betrayal and anger much like he does in his other books. Sometimes, his treatment of these themes are a little uninspired and it makes me think that he’s become a millionaire saying the same things in all his books so far. But then again, I guess that’s what makes Hosseini’s books resonate with countless millions worldwide. In spite of forced emotional puppetry at work here that tries to push our empathy to its limit, Hosseini communicates to millions of people a subtle, poignant, conflicted and complex picture of his origin country, Afghanistan. And while it might seem like a world far removed from ours, it is in these emotions, the situations and the messy and unpredictable nature of the charters that we see ourselves and realize that in spite of the apparent differences the human spirit is the same and we are bound together by our common trials and tribulations.
This is no doubt Hosseini’s most ambitious project but as a reader I find it was a rather difficult read when compared to his previous works. His choice to write a family saga told in several voices, across many countries and over many years, distracted me and blurred my focus. While parts of the novel are tedious, bland and formulaic there are other sections that are sparkling with poignant messages and profound thoughts that one expects from a Khaled Hosseini novel. Sadly that’s not enough to keep readers engaged. The constant back and forth has a counterproductive effect and makes the story a somewhat wearisome read.
There is a poignant line in the novel that in an uncanny way captures my appraisal of this particular book.
“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen…”
Sadly, there’s nothing extraordinary about this novel. It’s an interesting read but one that you’ll forget about soon after the last page has been turned.
I’ll recommend it for your summer reading but with my reservations intact!