And the Mountains Echoed

By Khaled Hosseini

(Riverhead  $28.95, 416 pages)

Who is this author?

An author, a medical doctor and a philanthropist, Khaled Hosseini, who was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965 and grew up in California, achieved instantaneous success with his 2003 debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” which became a book club favorite and a movie in 2007. His second novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (2009) also was a No. 1 best-seller and the two books have sold upwards of 10 million copies in the United States and 38 million worldwide. Hosseini has channeled his good fortune into good works: he is a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, and he created The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit organization that gives humanitarian aid people in Afghanistan.

What is this book about?

Hosseni explores timeless themes in his third novel: how we love and betray one another and how we take “home” with us no matter how far away we may roam. The story begins in Afghanistan in 1952 when a poor laborer whose first wife died giving birth to a little girl sells HIS  now 3-year-old daughter to a rich poet and her husband, for badly needed funds to support his new wife and the rest of his family. This decision breaks the heart of his son Abdullah, who was very close to the little girl, Pari, and its ramifications echo through the decades and across continents as the story progresses and an expanding cast of characters find themselves in California, Greece and France. The act of selling a child creates a sadness and recrimination that affects the family and those close to them and traces the diaspora of Afghan citizens seeking a better life, or at least a life that sustains them.

Why you’ll like it:

Hosseini has the born storyteller’s gift of engaging his audience. Though this book is peopled with a complex collection of characters, he knits their stories together in a satisfying way, and gives abstract questions of identity, family love and strife and morality a human face. Those who delighted in his first two books will undoubtedly find themselves captivated by this one as well.

What others are saying:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2013, review says: “Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ begins simply enough, with a father recounting a folktale to his two young children. The tale is about a young boy who is taken by a div (a sort of ogre), and how that fate might not be as terrible as it first seems—a brilliant device that firmly sets the tone for the rest of this sweeping, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting novel. A day after he tells the tale of the div, the father gives away his own daughter to a wealthy man in Kabul. What follows is a series of stories within the story, told through multiple viewpoints, spanning more than half a century, and shifting across continents. The novel moves through war, separation, birth, death, deceit, and love, illustrating again and again how people’s actions, even the seemingly selfless ones, are shrouded in ambiguity. This is a masterwork by a master storyteller.”

The Washington Post  says: “Nuance is rare on the bestseller list. In most cases, ambiguity is stripped away to appeal to the greatest number and lowest common denominator. So… when a popular novelist shows a decided preference for moral complexity. It suggests that readers crave more than simplistic escape. Or perhaps it just means that some writers, like Khaled Hosseini, know how to whisk rough moral fiber into something exquisite…Over and over again, he takes complicated characters and roasts them slowly, forcing us to revise our judgments about them and to recognize the good in the bad and vice versa.”

“This bittersweet family saga spans six decades and transports readers from Afghanistan to France, Greece, and the United States. Hosseini …weaves a gorgeous tapestry of disparate characters joined by threads of blood and fate. Siblings Pari and Abdullah are cruelly separated at childhood. A disfigured young woman, Thalia, is abandoned by her mother and learns to love herself under the tutelage of a surrogate. Markos, a doctor who travels the world healing strangers, avoids his sick mother back home. A feminist poet, Nila Wahdatire, reinvents herself through an artful magazine interview, and Nabi, who is burdened by a past deed, leaves a letter of explanation. Each character tells his or her version of the same story of selfishness and selflessness, acceptance and forgiveness, but most important, of love in all its complex iterations. VERDICT:  In this uplifting and deeply satisfying book, Hosseini displays an optimism not so obvious in his previous works. Readers will be clamoring for it,” says Library Journal.

Says The Barnes & Noble Review:  “Each of Khaled Hosseini’s three novels … begins with a betrayal and then gradually finds its way toward an unexpected redemption. Each includes … at least one orphaned or abandoned child. In all three books, the author exhibits an unabashed didacticism, using plainspoken family dramas to convey the complex recent history and culture of Afghanistan to multitudes of readers in America and around the world. Yet … the author’s allegiance is above all to the story, from which he has stripped away most stylistic enhancements, reducing his tale to its emotional essence. To Hosseini’s detractors, his narrative purity comes off as trite earnestness. To his legions of fans it’s a virtue, a hallmark of credibility and consistency. …Hosseini’s intention is to show how stubbornly a homeland manages to cling to a person, in strange and diluted ways, even after years of dispersion and assimilation…An author with a less urgent calling might be willing merely to manage the brand of his or her success, recycling the same magic formulas that initially captivated audiences. Not so for Hosseini, a popular-fiction writer of the highest caliber whose talent is as agile and wide-ranging as his new novel itself.”

When is it available?

Multiple copies of this book have been ordered for the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Goodwin Branch.

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