Bestselling author Khaled Hosseini returns to our shelves with his hugely anticipated third novel. On the eve of its release, Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach casts an eye over it.
Maya Angelou once said “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise”. Whether Khaled Hosseini has heard that sage advice is unlikely. That he shares the same view, however, is all but certain. His new novel And The Mountains Echoed shares the same heartbeat as his previous works, but instead of reaching for the stars he appears to have developed through regression, at least from an emotional standpoint. His latest offering, while boasting a globe hopping narrative and an array of multi-generational characters, is a measured, tender, and still powerful exploration of what makes us tick.
Hosseini is one of the world’s most celebrated writers, with a body of work that includes the worldwide best seller The Kite Runner and the acclaimed 2007 book A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both books examined the inner workings of the human condition. Powerful themes of loss, love, power, redemption, all set against the turbulent backdrop of Afghan history. Spanning generations, both books came with heart-wrenching emotional conflict, epic in every sense of the word.
While And The Mountains Echoed is a weave of incredibly powerful tales, Hosseini skilfully pulls back the reigns on an all out emotional roller coaster, allowing the story to unravel bit by bit. We begin in 1952, as Kaboor, is telling his 10-year-old son, Abdullah, and little girl, Pari, a fantastical tale about a child taken from its family under wrenching circumstances. The father makes a brutal pilgrimage to mountains to rescue his son, only to find the boy is being raised in paradise. He leaves him there.
It sets the scene, as much of the book chronicles the agonizing choices we all make in extraordinary circumstances around the people we love.
Young Pari is swiftly cut away from her poor family to join an upwardly mobile one, triggering the novel’s slingshot trajectory between Afghanistan, France, Greece and California and back and forth across the decades up to the present.
Pari may be the book’s protagonist but she is not its obvious star. Between an alcoholic poet married to a closeted gay man, a surly but heroic nurse, a sentimental man-servant, a selfless plastic surgeon, and others variously introduced via posthumous letters, media interviews and sweeping recollections, Pari barely makes a peep once the novel gets a move on.
I won’t go any further, but it’s not as chaotic as it sounds. The ball keeps rolling and each character enters and leaves at the perfect time, never halting the pace and progress of the novel.
Many have questioned if Khaled Hosseini could continue his impossibly high standards after his previous two works. And incredibly he has, with a beautiful, confident novel told by a true master. The Kite Runner might have been a fluke, A Thousand Splendid Suns a coincidence, but And The Mountains Echoed will surely solidify Hosseini as one of the greatest novelists in the world today.
Andrew Cattanach is a contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping though finds it difficult to do them all at once.