The plot of ‘And the Mountains echoed’ is set as a circular course which begins with Abdullah and his little sister Pari who is separated from him at the onset of the story and completes with them re uniting again. As the tale unfolds further, many more characters surface up with each having a quite descriptive and often painful account of their respective pasts. Destiny takes an unforgiving turn when the Soviets raid Afghanistan and Pari, who has been adopted by a wealthy family and has no recollection whatsoever of her past is forced to move to Paris with her Maman or step mother. After many intervening years when Pari is old and graying, she receives a letter written by her uncle in which he gives a detailed account of her life which is as diminished and hazy in her memory as is her brother who is now living in San Francisco. She finally decides to meet him only to find him in an ailing and heart wrenching medical condition in which he remembers his little sister but not the old woman who stands before him.
It is authors like Khaled Hosseini who possess the gifted ability to bestow such commanding force to words that the narrative containing them becomes an inescapable vortex. Through his characters, his pen very cruelly rips open the most fundamental layers of human heart and soul and blasts away the imagination of the readers with every letter acting as a shrapnel. The liquid ease with which he manages to make the reader helplessly vulnerable and puncture the deepest and closely guarded emotional realms is as unbelievable as it is brilliant. He never fails to impress the reader with his splendid usage of imagery and precision in words that are nothing less than beautiful. His attention to detail in giving shape to every character, in drawing the core of its psyche, in chalking out its emotional and mental silhouettes is the pure genius of a true craftsman.
However, I wish I could say the storyline was as perfect and tightly knit for which Hosseini is known. No matter how compelling and profound his way of storytelling might be but the insignificance of some of the characters appears as tiny cracks in the otherwise seamless tale of love and longing. Though in isolation, these characters are given an exquisite treatment and yet the central plot doesn’t seem to accommodate them deservingly and these characters are lost, in a rather disappointing manner into the depths of the plot. Often, the story meanders from its purpose to distant shores which are difficult to justify with the context. The sheer delight and pleasure one derives being in the company of such gorgeous words is, to some extent, taken away by the length to which they are described.
Had it not been Hosseini, I would not have been much disappointed with the way the story ends but this is the inevitable burden of expectations that writers of such caliber and repute are doomed to carry. After all the heartbreaks and endurance of grief, I was looking forward to an ending that could comfort me with a sense of contentment and fulfillment. But sadly, the climax of the book is nothing like that. It left me suspended with an unquenched feeling that one gets savoring a really delicious dish from which one essential or key ingredient is missing.
In the end, this new book might or might not be Hosseini’s best work but it is, though not in its entirety, a great book.