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Audiobook Review: And The Mountains Echoed

16115612No, you’re not seeing double – this novel has been acclaimed previously by the Hoarders.  Last year, Penny wrote a lovely review of the tale, which you can read here.  I myself was patiently waiting for the audiobook, having heard that the story is even more engrossing thanks to the voice talents of the author Khaled Hosseini, and his fellow narrators Shohreh Aghdashloo and Navid Negahban.  I put a hold on one of the audio copies at my local library (I believe I was 86th in line – is that all?), and kept checking my inbox for the notification.  Once in my possession for those precious few weeks, I learned quickly that it was well worth the wait.

And The Mountains Echoed is heartbreaking and gorgeously written.  This is a novel that boasts some of the most elegant prose that I’ve encountered in a very long time.  Hosseini’s words are silk. Each line is more poetic than the last.  Having those words read aloud to me was like listening to a melancholic lullaby, and I was left drained at the end.  This was my first experience with Khaled Hosseini’s work, and I now fully understand why this author has such an enthusiastic and devout following.  And The Mountains Echoed wrapped itself across continents and generations, and offered a surprising number of rich characters.  The sprawl of the tale was almost dizzying.

The book opens with some lore; a haunting children’s bed time story that would keep most awake until the wee hours.  You would do well to pay close attention to these pages, as the story succinctly sets the tone for the rest of the novel.  This sober bedtime story does more than share a lesson; it prepares the reader for what lies ahead.  I’ll warn that the novel pulls no punches.  You’ll be drawn in by beautifully written characters, and will have your heart broken shortly thereafter.  The novel opens up with a darling brother and little sister, both of whom you’ll love.  The brilliance of the novel is that their tragedy at the beginning sets off a ripple of effects for generations to come.  It was the most profound case of cause and effect, as family members remained touched by the heartbreak for so many years. Aunts, Uncles, caregivers, children, and children’s children were impacted by what happened at the novel’s start.  If anything, this is among the most difficult of life’s lessons; that certain events have the power to affect families across generations.  You can’t run from the past.

I have to confess that I found novel’s first characters the most compelling.  While the stories that followed were brilliant, I always longed to return to ten-year-old Abdullah and his three-year-old sister Pari.  I found myself more invested in these two children, and no matter who was introduced afterward, my need to hear their continued stories only grew. Walking with them through their childhoods, adolescence and adulthood held more emotion for me than the rest of the people in the novel combined.  And while I understood that the stories that followed Abdullah and Pari were forever linked to the children, I selfishly just wanted more from the original two.  That’s not to say that the post-stories were not compelling or beautifully written.  They most certainly were, and the same level of attention was paid to the characters that followed.  For me, however, the lives of Abdullah and Pari were the most precious of the novel.  I wanted happiness for them at any cost.

Without giving away the close of their stories, I will say that I understood the end.  The fact that not everything comes neatly wrapped in a bow may not comfort you, but this version of closure can at least offer some peace.  While this book did not necessarily whisk me away with the ending that I greedily wanted, it did give me pause.  I admire and respect the emotion of the novel’s close, and appreciated its confident look forward.  Not only can the past affect you, but it can also provide a springboard for true contentment.  Sometimes, I let my need for literary vindication take over, rather than allowing the novel to guide me through a natural karma-laden path.  And The Mountains Echoed was just that. Love, spirituality and a smattering of karma.  Beautifully done.  4.5 stars.

Audiobook Review: Fin and Lady

16059336I came across this delightful little tale after reading Karli’s review, of it over at Typographical Era. I just knew I had to add this to the to read list. Then I discovered it was available to download from the library in audio so that just made it all the more reason to jump on it. Not only was this story of Fin and Lady wonderful, the audio narration was great as well. Anne Twomey truly added further delight to this tale with her narration.

Fin and Lady is quite simply this quaint little tale told through the eyes of a young Fin and moving into his teenage years during the late-60s.  Fin is left orphaned and must now move off his family’s dairy farm to New York to live under the care of his much older sister Lady. Lady is Fin’s father’s daughter from his first marriage and is someone Fin has only met a small handful of times when he was much younger.

Lady is head-strong, determined never to settle down ever and craves freedom, often complaining about being trapped or caged and just needing to be free. If Lady were of age in the 20s she would have been a full-fledged Flapper. Now, however, it’s deep into the 60s, another era of sexual awakening and rebellion. Lady lives in the thick of it with a steady number of “suitors” clamouring to tame her. Fin settles into this life and shares with the reader his life now full up of adventure, parties, and the constantly revolving door of men he hopes will be the rightful choice for Lady.

Throughout this genuinely lovingly told tale, Fin’s voice fills it with love and awe for Lady, their maid Mabel, and his favoured suitor, Biffy. There are also times however when an additional and mysterious narrator fills in some part of the narrative. This narrator is never revealed under the final chapters and it is also in these final chapters that a twist of fate befalls Fin, guaranteeing the reader’s heartstrings will continue to be pulled and pulled long after the book comes to a great and satisfying finish.

Fin and Lady is truly a lovely little story that I highly recommend, especially if you’re simply looking for a quaint and quiet little tale.

Another note concerning the audio narration: I have to say that THIS is a wonderful and truly delightful way to narrate a story. Never once was the listener subjected to a squeaky or screechy little voice when Fin was younger, never once was the listener made to endure the narrator changing her voice to become a gravelly male voice. It was simply read in the same delightful (female) voice. The whole way through. It was lovely.

One second little side note as well: On the day Pete Seeger passed away, I reached a place in the story where Fin begins attending this “Flower school” and their morning “community meetings” were times where they spent listening to the music of Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger. Seeger even came to their school one day in person. I just thought that was a funny coincidence.

4.5 stars for this wonderful tale that made my commute to and from work a very pleasurable one. And apologies if I over-used the word “delightful”. ;-)