And the Mountains Echoed

by Khaled Hosseini
ages: adult
First sentence: “So, then,”
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The hardest part about writing about this book is that it doesn’t really have a plot, not in the traditional sense. The story begins with a folk tale about a poor but happy family who have 5 children. Then one day, a div comes and demands that they give up one of their children, or he will take them all. After much agonizing, the father decides to give up his youngest, his favorite, even though it breaks his heart.

The father goes later to see the div,to see what has happened to his child. He expects something sinister, but the child is happy, growing, thriving in the div’s care. The father is given another choice: take the child home, never to return. Or leave the child, and never see him again. It’s a tough choice.

Finishing that story, I had no idea it’s relevance for the book, but upon closing it, I understood. The story is, simply, about the ripple effect of one person’s decision. In this case, it’s an poor Afghani villager who sells his  daughter to a wealthy couple. It sounds a lot more sinister than it really is. In a series of short stories, really, Hosseini explores the people touched by that act in any little way. From the stepuncle, to the adoptive mom, to the doctor who ended up living in the house, Hosseini explores the ripple effect.

I don’t want to call this book profound, partially because after going to an event with Hosseini, I think he’d be uncomfortable with that label. It is, however, insightful and fascinating exploring lives through time. And while the stories were uneven — some of them ran long, and others weren’t that interesting — I thought the format served the story well. That, and Hosseini really is an elegant writer: I’m not a word person, but the words were just gorgeous.

It wasn’t a gripping read, but it was a thoughtful one. And one that I think will stay with me for quite some time.

2 thoughts on “And the Mountains Echoed

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