It was after a long time that a good book crossed my path. Books too, I have realized, come your way by a twist of fortune.
I received this book from my sister-in-law this November as a birthday gift. The thing with good books is that you get hooked from the beginning. You just know from page one that it will pan out well. A reader can sense in her gut that this script and its characters will be your companions during the next few days.
Khaled Hosseni’s ‘And The Mountains Echoed’ is a story about a brother and sister. And its final pages made me cry. If I were to write but two lines about this book, it would be these. And these, would be sufficient to convey how much I loved this book.
Abdullah and Pari-Afghani brother and sister–are estranged when they are young. The story spans five decades, it follows the lives of several characters. Each chapter is told told from the perspective and narrative of another character which has just been briefly mentioned in the sections which came before. Hearing a rendering from another character’s perspective in each chapter, gives the book innumerable dimensions and tastes. Its a box of assorted chocolates and you never know which one you will be biting into next!
Hosseni is a master story teller; it seems he is simply recounting the story of real lives unfolding before him–so real are his characters, so earthen are the emotions he evokes even though there are no hyperboles anywhere. But perhaps the best thing about his book is the manner in which each character’s story is left dangling, giving the reader the flexibility to weave together his or her own versions, justifications and conclusions. It leaves you craving for more–just a little more–of each story.
The story progresses for half a century from the 70’s to 2013 through the lives of the young, lonely Abdullah, the stoic Parwana, the handsome Nabi, the mysterious Suleman Wahdati, the glamorous Nila Wahdati, the plastic surgeon Markos, Dr. Idris Bashiri and finally …finally Pari-Abdullah’s sister! The surprise towards the end of the book which is sure to make you smile mistily is Abdullah’s daughter-also Pari!
I have never been at want for a brother, such was the manner in which my sister and I were raised. My parents always made us independent, confident young women. My sister and I were everything for each other–sister, brother, friend, confidant. This book gave me an insight into what a brother-sister relation can be.
Abdullah’s love for Pari, his deep ache for her presence, the manner in which he carries around the hope that he will meet her one day–some day–touches one deep inside. Pari’s endeavors to fill in the gaps of a childhood eclipsed by her young age and swept away to Western horizons, the nagging feeling of absence which ebbs and flows through her life rings true.
Hosseni’s work is no fantasy, it has no happily-ever-after-endings. In fact the beauty of his work lies in its proximity to reality. Yet, there is a magical quality to it. The reader finds within his words the wonderous chain of happenings which he/she can connect to and call it the all-seeing hand of destiny. His books reaffirm my faith that reality is certainly more riveting than fiction!
As a writer I hungrily lap up Hosseni’s every word and phrase. I can conjure up vividly every character and have the luxury to see that character through another’s perspective too. Does a reader want more?
P.S: There have come many moments even bigger than this which have wanted me to abandon all chores and responsibilities and simply grab my laptop and give words to my feelings. The time to reflect and record those events will come, hopefully. Yet, I do so today, because I want to capture the emotion this book has evoked in me. Because it too, like everything else in this world, will eventually pass.