Khaled Hosseini’s new novel, And the Mountains Echoed, is by far his most ambitious work, surpassing The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in its complexity and skill. Hosseini’s style of storytelling seems traditional at first, but becomes increasingly layered as he explores generations of a family navigating different geographic and emotional territories.
Each chapter develops a new perspective, adding dimensions to the family’s experiences. The effect is unsettling and moving. In the beginning, we are given a fable of a farmer who is forced to give up one of his five children to an evil giant. He and his wife decide to choose randomly, and the unlucky one happens to be their favorite son. Eventually, the farmer tracks down the giant and finds his son in a garden full of children, happy and without any memory of his past. The farmer is struck by the bounty of the garden and leaves without his son, knowing that his poor farm is not a better alternative for the child. As a gesture of kindness, the giant gives the farmer a potion that makes him forget his son and the terrible ordeal.
The tale is devastatingly simple, but captures the essence of Hosseini’s work in its artful disclosure of the narrative that shapes the entire novel: a father who gives up his daughter, selling her so that he can afford to protect the other children from the onset of winter, separating her from the brother with whom she has been inseparable since the death of their mother.
Hosseini grapples with the idea of parental and filial relationships and what is due from both parties, namely the costs of protection and love. What is the limit to protecting a loved one from a life of suffering, be it from poverty or emotional affliction? Every story in the novel is an echo of this dilemma, from Abdullah and Pari’s stepmother Parwana and her life taking care of a disabled sister to her brother Nabi and his affluent employer.
Ultimately, it's the story of Abdullah and Pari, separate yet permanently connected by the tender relationship from their childhood, that holds the novel together.
In the decades to come, Pari will grow up in Paris with her adoptive mother, becoming a mathematician, marrying, and having three children. Yet, all her life Pari has felt “the absence of something, or someone, fundamental to her own existence”: sometimes “it was vague, like a message sent across shadowy byways and vast distances, a weak signal on a radio dial, remote, warbled. Other times it felt so clear, this absence, so intimately close it made her heart lurch.”
She resolves to one day return to Afghanistan to find out the truth about her past.
Abdullah, on the other hand, has settled in California where he owns a restaurant with his wife and only child, Pari, named after his long-lost sister. It is only after Abdullah begins to suffer from dementia that he and his sister are reunited, although he is unaware of it.
The end is strikingly poignant, bringing together the stories that have been woven together through Abdullah and Pari’s separation to a culmination at their union. Despite its sentimental qualities, And the Mountains Echoed is a triumphant exploration of trauma and displacement, a true testament to Hosseini’s intimate knowledge of the intricacies of human life.
It’s officially fall, and what better time is there for hot drinks and storytelling? This masala chai is sure to warm you up when you come in from the cold. Share it with family and friends as you reminisce on the past or drink it alone as you take on Hosseini’s mesmerizing novel.
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black peppercorns
- 4 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (or a few teaspoons of ground cinnamon, to taste)
- 2 tbsp. sugar, to taste
- 2 tbsp. loose black tea
In a small saucepan, bring milk, sugar, ginger, pepper, cardamom pods and cinnamon to a boil.
Remove pan from heat and add the loose black tea. Cover and let steep for at least 3 minutes (or longer, if you prefer a stronger brew). Strain the mixture into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups.