A Khaled Hosseini novel takes you on a journey that cuts across time, space and borders. Whether it was through the eyes of two little boys in Kite Runner, or through the eyes of two fierce and strong women in A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini has a craftsmanship in his writing that can evoke a lump in the throat with as much ease as he can leave a wistful smile on your face.
His recent magnum, And the Mountains Echoed, is no different from his previous works in that sense. The same ominous sense of foreboding is present right through this novel too as it takes you to a different Afghanistan, one that has contours of a time even before the disastrous hand of war destroyed the fabric of its existence. He takes you along all the way from Afghanistan to France, Greece and San Francisco. Opening with the rendition of a bedtime story by a father to his two children, the book begins with a tale that pretty much sets the stage for the events that will unfold in the coming pages. Starting out in an Afghan village in the 1950s, the story begins with a young boy, Abdullah, and his sister Pari. The two of them are soul siblings in the truest sense of the term; the bond between them is so deep, poignant and palpably strong. Just when you think that the bond surpasses the supremacy of the filial tie, and that it will remain unshakeable, something happens that shakes up their lives and throws the familiar out of the window. As Hosseini puts it, sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand. Travelling across the world – from Afghanistan to San Francisco, from Tinos in Greece to Paris, you get vague glimpses of life in India and a touch-and-go with a refugee-camp in Pakistan.
While at it, reading some parts of the book might feel like being in the centre of an anthology of short stories. Hang in there though, because they tie into the main narrative in a very neat rendition. What sets Hosseini apart is that every little character – whether obscure or prominent – is given a complete story. You don’t find yourself wondering what a character wound up doing in the book – each person is a thread in an intricately woven fabric. Hosseini shows you the larger reality through smaller realities. He tells you that life goes on everywhere, you simply have to dust yourself and move on. One thing that is certain with Khaled Hosseini’s writing is that you are sure to reach for the box of tissues: whether in absolute inexplicable grief along with the characters, or the feeling of helplessness at the larger ethos that is reality in Afghanistan.