And the Mountains Echoed

Khaled Hosseini has this unusual gift of leaving you uplifted, and with an unmistakable lingering sense of loss at the same time. Each of his books does that, and the third one even more so because having finished it, I realize I don’t have any more Khaled Hosseini books waiting for me (not till he publishes another one). 

This book, like his other works, starts from the childhood of protagonists- with the characters so simple, vulnerable and guileless that the words spring out from the pages and wrap your heart in a clutch, and then page by page, pull your heart along into the big bad world.

The children in this book are a brother and sister- and while that is their biological relationship, the actual relationship is of parent and child. Perhaps not everyone would relate to this portrayal of siblings especially in recent times, but anyone who has had a relationship of being mothered by someone, or mothering someone, would connect with it.

Unlike his previous books, this one doesn’t dwell so much on the state of Afghanistan, but rather follows its characters across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Greece, France and US. Without any superfluous struggles to capture the cultural nuances and differences across these places on the map, which a lesser writer may feel compelled to do, Khaled Hosseini easily recognizes the core of these vastly different characters as shaped by their respective circumstances. Across continents, among diverse individuals connected by events at some point of time, he repeatedly shines a light on the yearning for ‘home’ and an urge to belong, to be accepted.

Khaled Hosseini’s progress as a writer manifests as somewhat hurried factual accounts, and unhurried examination of the moments of stillness, laden with insights that cannot be put down to being a good wordsmith, but only to being a great participant and observer of life. In the reader’s unguarded moments, he offers the truth of how people make life choices, how that which you try to escape eventually finds you, how the purpose of a life may only reveal itself in retrospect..

I noticed and wondered why all of his books span entire lifetimes of the characters. And it struck me that perhaps that’s how the pieces somehow begin to fit together- over a lifetime. When a character finds out an answer to a question about her life she didn’t exactly know she had, at close to 50 years of age, I felt quite disoriented- wow, so she was living all that time without knowing any better! Till the age of 50.. so if I were her, I would know nothing for another 20 years about something so important to my life story!

In a world of instant gratification, we think everything must have a meaning now, everything must make sense now, that we must understand the place and importance of everything now.  But the truth is, the universe doesn’t owe us an explanation.

What the universe does offer is an opportunity- not in any way neat and perfect with a clear picture at the end like a jigsaw puzzle, but nevertheless beautiful and sometimes even surreal- like a meandering stream of water that may flow from right where you are to the place you’ve always been looking. Sometimes you may see the connection, sometimes just the water.



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