Khalid Hosseini is a master story-teller. He manages to mesmerize you with his words that you become so engrossed in the tale, oblivious to the world around you. And the mountains echoed is another one of his masterpieces. Set in Afghanistan and spanning over 60 years you will find anguish, desperation, guilt, deception, vengeance and unrequited love. The central theme revolves around the relationship between two siblings Abdullah and Pari, with the happiness and heartbreak surrounding them and the devastating separation they had to endure. It shows how one tragic decision rippled over time and touched so many lives.
The name Pari means “Fairy” which was a very apt choice as Pari always flitted about charming everyone around her. She and Abdulla were extremely close. Their mother died while giving birth to Pari and their father had to work very hard to earn a living, so Abdullah took on the responsibility of taking care of her. Even after their father remarried, Abdullah would still take care of all of Pari’s needs. Their stepmother Parwana had a baby who died after two weeks due to the severe cold and their inadequate protection from the elements. They were poverty-stricken and their uncle Nabi (Parwana’s brother) suggested they give up Pari for adoption to his wealthy employers Suleiman and Nila Wahadati who couldn’t have children. Saboor, their father agreed but asked to walk to Kabul instead of being picked up by car so he could prolong the time spent with his treasured daughter. The night before they left Saboor told Abdulla and Pari a folk tale of how a man had to give up his son and how he agonized about it but as he said: “A finger had to be cut, to save the hand.” Saboor tried to leave Abdullah behind for the trip to Kabul but Abdullah could not bear to let Pari go anywhere without him, so strong was their bond. This attachment made the separation between them even more heartbreaking and haunted Saboor and Nabi for years to come.
Parwana’s story was a tragic tale of twin sisters where her gorgeous twin Masooma always outshone her. She lived contentedly in her sister’s shadow until she realized that the man she secretly loved, Saboor was actually in love with Masooma. One day she pushed Masooma off a swing which resulted in her being paralyzed, a burden that Parwana would carry for the rest of her life.
Uncle Nabi’s selfish motives for encouraging Pari’s adoption are described in another chapter. Over the years he tried to justify what he did but eventually guilt got the better of him and he confessed all in a letter to Pariadmitting exactly what transpired and what had led to her life changing almost overnight.
There are also stories of Idris and Timur the neighbor’s children and of Adel the son of a wealthy man whose father threw Saboor and his family out of their home and usurped their land.
I would highly recommend reading this book. It is one of those thought provoking books that will imprint itself in your heart for a while. I loved how it started with the father telling his kids a story to prepare them for their heartbreaking separation the next day. The words captured my imagination as I could visualize the characters walking to Kabul and my throat constricted with conflicting emotions as I empathized with the father’s loss and desolation. Even though I initially felt that the other character’s stories deflected my attention away from the main storyline, their individual contributions to Abdullah and Pari’s lives made for a rich engrossing tale that kept me from putting the book down. I thought of Parwana as a typical evil stepmother until I read the story of her life and it allowed me understand the way she acted. I was on edge throughout the book wondering if the siblings would ever see one another again… I will leave you to readAnd the mountains echoed and discover this for yourself.