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.

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

16115612Do I even bother at this point an attempt to write anything else outside of what Leah from Fiction Fan Blog (taken from Goodreads) has so incredibly and eloquently stated here: (beautiful job Leah!)

Blown like leaves in the wind…

‘A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.’

Within the first few pages of this book, the reader knows s/he’s in the hands of a master storyteller. In a village in rural Afghanistan, mid 1940s, a father tells a folk tale to his two young children. On the next day, they will travel to Kabul and start a chain of events that will take the reader on a journey across the world and through the decades.

The novel is made up of a series of linked and interlinked stories about members of this one family, their descendants and people whose lives they touch. Hosseini takes us back and forwards in time but each episode tells a whole story of one of the characters. This made the book feel in some ways like a collection of short stories rather than a novel, but Hosseini brings us round in a perfect circle and the last few chapters bring all these disparate episodes into one immensely moving whole.

The beauty of the writing is only matched by the humanity of the characters. Hosseini takes us inside their minds and their hearts and we see them laid bare, essentially good people but with their flaws and weaknesses exposed, to us and to themselves. Although much of the book takes place in Europe and America, Afghanistan remains at the heart of it because it remains in the hearts of the characters, even though they may have become part of the war- and poverty-driven diaspora.

A beautiful and very moving book that brought me to tears on several occasions, this isn’t fundamentally about politics or war; it is about the unforgettable people who populate its pages – about humanity. And though there is sadness and sorrow here, there is also love and joy and a deep sense of hope. Highly recommended.

Yes, yes, and yes. My weekend was spent completely and totally lost in the pages of And the Mountains Echoed. I achieved nothing else but the complete and 100% investment in this (beautiful, gorgeous, heartbreaking) story. I have yet to read Mr. Hosseini’s two previous novels and it is a correction that needs to be made and one that is often pointed out to me by fellow LH Jackie. A Thousand Splendid Suns is available on audio from our public library. You know what I’ll be seeking out very soon. First, I just want to continue to bask in the beauty of the tale of And the Mountains Echoed.

As well, whomever wrote the inside flap book’s description deserves copious amounts of praise. Did Mr. Hosseini compose this himself? It’s as brilliant as the book itself. So again, my words cannot compare to these that I’ll include in their entirety below:

“Broad in scope and setting, wise and compassionate in its storytelling. And the Mountains Echoed is a profoundly moving, captivating novel that demonstrates Khalid Hosseini’s deeply felt understanding of the bonds that define us and shape our lives -and of what it means to be human.

It begins with the heartbreaking, unparalled bond between two motherless siblings in an Afghan village. To three-year-old Pari, big brother Abdullah is more mother than brother.To ten-year-old Abdullah, little Pari is his everything. What happens to them – and the large and small manners in which it echoes through the lives of so many other people – is proof of the moral complexity of life. In a multigenerational novel revolving around not just parents and children but also brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which family members love., wound, betray, honor and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe – from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos – the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex, and powerful with each turning page.”

5 heartfelt stars. What an exceptionally written tale of our connectivity.

There is also this cover which takes your breath away as it is perfectly captures a key moment in the story. The father carrying Pari on his shoulders, and Abdullah walking alongside. The yellow feather. Makes me cry all over again. 17345741