“A story is like a moving train,” writes Nabi, one of Khaled Hosseini’s characters in And The Mountains Echoed. “No matter where you hop on board, you are bound to reach your destination.”
Absolutely true. If you have been in a moving train you would have realized how it is a macrocosm of life. Observing people can be such a rewarding exercise to get an insight into human nature. Simple window gazing is also an interesting pursuit. Khaled Hosseni, the captivating writer that he is, is able to give each and every character quirks and traits, and make each one of them stand out in a particular way as he weaves his plot deftly and courses to the end. Having read his The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I knew his latest book, And The Mountains Echoed, could be also a wonderful read.
I was not disappointed. This book will tug at your heartstrings, for it did to mine. The story spanning from the fall of 1952 to the winter of 2010 takes us across continents and datelines, alternating between war torn Afghanistan, the US, the ‘chic and fashionable’ Paris and the picturesque Greek island of Tinos. Saboor, Abdullah & Pari’s father, narrates a charming yet haunting story – one begins to wonder what place does this story of a cruel ogre and a little boy have in the narrative; and soon it is laid threadbare before the reader. The endearing bond between ‘Abollah’ (that’s how little Pari calls him) and Pari is beautifully etched; yet it aches your heart to see that they go in two different ways in the beginning of the story and even more so when the eagerly awaited meeting takes place at the end.
Nila Wahdati is portrayed as a complex character much ahead of her times, shocking the Puritan sensibilities of many as she live life on her terms. I almost saw in her parallels to our own Indo-Anglian / Malayalam writer Madhavi Kutty aka Kamala Das. May be because she too was an iconoclast who openly and freely treated hush and taboo subjects like sensuality and sexuality in a guilt free way and with remarkable ease. It is Nabi, her chauffeur and Abdullah’s uncle, who knows the secretively hidden sides of Nila.
Hossein’s way with words casts a spell and makes the story come alive. Many a time while reading his books I have written down some of the lines that resonated with me.
“If an avalanche buries you and you’re lying there underneath all that snow, you can’t tell which way is up or down. You want to dig yourself out but pick the wrong way, and you dig yourself to your own demise.”
“If you were the poor, suffering was your currency.”
“It is important to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle.”
“It was the kind of love that, sooner or later, cornered you into a choice: either you tore free or you stayed and withstood its rigor even as it squeezed you into something smaller than yourself.”
“She is furious with herself for her own stupidity. Opening herself up like this, voluntarily, to a lifetime of worry and anguish. It was madness. Sheer lunacy. A spectacularly foolish and baseless faith, against enormous odds, that a world you do not control will not take from you the one thing you cannot bear to lose. Faith that the world will not destroy you.”
“Some people feel unhappiness the way others love: privately, intensely, and without recourse.”
“The rope that pulls you from the flood can become a noose around your neck.”
“They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.”
“When you have lived as long as I have, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same colour.”
“You say you felt a presence, but I only sensed an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like a patient who cannot tell the doctor where it hurts, only that it does.”
I would give full 5 stars to this book. Yes, a wonderful read.