By Ada Zhang
Khaled Hosseini, New York Times best-selling author of “Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” has somehow outdone himself. In his newest novel, “And The Mountains Echoed,” Hosseini takes readers once again on a spiritual journey, but this time, instead of following one story, Hosseini combines many stories into a single narrative.
The stories are narrated from the point of view of multigenerational characters. Stories are set in Paris, the Greek island of Tinos, San Francisco, and, like in his previous novels, Kabul, Afghanistan.
On the surface, this book appears to be a series of short stories, and that is certainly one way to read it. However, a consideration of the book as a complete work reveals a new theme Hosseini is trying to explore. All the characters are related in some way, either directly or indirectly. Hosseini shows, through this theme of interconnectedness, how our actions have widespread effects.
The consequences of our decisions can permeate generational boundaries and change the trajectory of another person’s life without us even knowing it.
Motifs of family and sacrifice in Hosseini’s previous works can be found again in “And The Mountains Echoed.”
As usual, Hosseini dwells on darker aspects of familial relations: a woman who is jealous of her sister’s beauty, a father who sells his daughter to another family and a man who complains about his brother’s tendency to show off.
Hosseini does not shy away from expounding upon these harsh topics. His approach to these issues is direct, and yet still tender. Readers will find it difficult to judge these characters because Hosseini does an impeccable job of explaining the reasoning behind each character’s actions and intentions.
Readers have little choice but to empathize with the humanity of each character because, within the story, we see ourselves and the nuances of our own relationships. Hosseini enlightens readers of a truth we are afraid to admit to ourselves: It’s not hard to hurt the ones we deem closest to us, the ones we claim to love the most.
In the midst of these harsh topics, Hosseini does not undermine the genuine love that family members possess for one another. He elevates the element of sacrifice that is often overlooked or left out of love’s definition. The most endearing stories are told in the first two chapters and last two chapters of the book.
Through the story of a young boy who cares for his baby sister and a woman who cares for her old father, Hosseini exposes how loving someone involves pain. Holding on or letting go of a loved one means relinquishing selfish desires and giving up personal aspirations.
Hosseini implies that sacrifice gives love merit. He leaves readers to ponder our own definition of love, and whether or not something is missing in our definition.
“And The Mountains Echoed” does not end on a particularly jolly note, and if you are familiar with Hosseini’s work, this shouldn’t come as a shocker.
We don’t get the everyone-hold-hands-and-walk-towards-the-sunset ending, but the ending isn’t completely depressing either. Besides entertaining us with beautiful, imaginative stories, Hosseini leaves readers with a lot to think about.
Are there layers of jealousy and disappointment in our relationships? Does this affect the way we treat one another? Above all else, Hosseini calls us to examine how deliberate we are in the way we love in our everyday lives.