When an author makes their mark on your heart and soul, it is extremely difficult to forget them. You want to read all that they have written, devouring and reveling in the afterglow.
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini is my third book by the author and I suppose it will be the last for some time to come. I am not too keen on his fourth book TBH, and I don’t know if he is going to publish any other books soon.
Abdullah and Pari travel across the perilous landscape that is Afghanistan. With their father in the lead, they walk for 3 days and nights to reach their destination in Kabul from their far-flung village of Shadbagh. Once there, they are introduced to the Wahdatis, Suleiman, and Nila. While they enjoy the scene that a big city like Kabul provides in comparison to their remote village, they remain unaware of the predicament that awaits them both once they come back from a trip to the market with Nila.
What follows then is a tale of love and loss, promises and regrets, laughter and tears, and remembrances and forgetfulness.
From dusty war-torn Afghanistan to the romantic Paris, from the sun-kissed island of Tinos to the freeways of San Francisco, we are taken for a ride full of emotions, from where there is no return.
Why, O, Why was this book written? Someone just informed me it was supposed to be his magnum opus, and now I believe it. It was supposed, not is, IMO. Khaled Hosseini is a deft writer, no doubt a master in his field despite only having a handful of works to his credits, but nonetheless, he is someone who comes along once in a lifetime. Like I said while reviewing The Kite Runner, once in a lifetime. This work isn’t.
This work hoodwinked me, cheated me, and left me with a sour taste. I was made to believe it is the story of the siblings, lost to each other due to precarious circumstances but no, it was just mayhem. Slow mayhem. The flood of characters that came in after a few chapters were unnecessary, and so were their stories, past, present, and future. What did the Bashiris have to do with Abdullah and Pari? Nothing. What did Idris and Timur add to their story? Nothing. What did Roshi bring in? Nothing. Did Odie and Thalia add anything worth it? No, nada. Why was Suleiman given so much space? I don’t know. What was the purpose of throwing in Iqbal and Gholum like that when it wasn’t brought to a justifiable end? *shrugging me* Why was Abdullah not given the space he deserved? Don’t know, don’t know, and don’t know. Was there a need for so many people to tell their stories that bore no connection to Abdullah and Pari? Definitely not! Then why were they there? Why the need to clutter a beautiful plot, a promising premise, and a captivating story? I have no idea. What could have been a heartwarming story of a brother and his sister, was in turn reduced to a multi-lane highway, one where each lane takes you to a different destination. While the story did nothing to keep its promise made in the blurb, it does stand on its own. All as separate stories are beautiful and worth reading, separately. Having said all this, however, there were parts that were utterly and truly about Abdullah and Pari. The beginning and the end captured their emotions well, I just wanted to read more of that instead of all the dragging that was done in between.
The narrative flits a lot, once you are in the 1950s, and the next moment you are pushing towards the 2000s. The points of view are multiple, the minor overlap that a few stories have, gives us different perspectives but they don’t differ much from what has already been written.
I will not recommend this book. This isn’t Khaled Hosseini for me. I will forget I have read such a book to keep my standards of him high, one from where there is no looking back. Don’t get me wrong here, I know it must be difficult, maybe impossible to please fans once you have given a masterpiece. Living up to it for the rest of your life is not what you had expected or want but fooling the fans is not done. A clear-cut blurb would have been appreciated more, a more definitive storyline rather than the arbitrary one that was provided would have made it easier to accept a lesser work. This wasn’t for me, never will be.