Hosseini knows exactly where a person’s heart is, and he knows how to rip it apart. And And The Mountains Echoed left me a total mess.
I tend to cry about a lot. A lot of things do it for me, like cracking knuckles, not getting enough sleep, seeing someone I love unhappy, and Youtube videos of dogs seeing their owners come home from the military. Whatever. It doesn’t belittle the fact that this book is heartbreaking and touching on a universal level. It’s enough to make Nick Offerman crawl into fetal position.
It starts with a fairy tale about a poor man who encounters the embodiment of Satan after it kidnaps his favorite son. The man finds his little boy living a beautiful, happy life in paradise, and he’s given the choice of letting his son grow up without him, knowing that the boy will never want for anything, or take him home and struggle to feed the boy, let alone buy him that Lexus he’s probably going to ask for once he hits sixteen. At this point, I’m already crying, and this theme of sacrifice, of loving someone so much that it hurts yourself, plays out over and over again in the stories that make up the rest of the book. Each chapter is a subplot of the characters orbiting around the relationship of Abdullah and Pari, a brother and sister that love each other to bits and that get separated (again, more crying).
The strangest thing for me as I was reading the book was how much of it spoke to my own life.
Hosseini writes a bit about survivors guilt, as experienced by two young men that move to California before the war in Afghanistan began. Hosseini has given a name and a thousand perfect words to the thing that’s been eating at me since the revolution in Egypt a few years ago. The two boys go back to Kabul and decide to make a dramatic documentary to bring back to America, so that “people can understand,” and so that “they can make a difference,” but most of all so that they can sleep in a suburban house with the windows open, drive a nice car, and take cute girls on dates without having to question every day what they did to deserve a life so much luckier and more hopeful than that of the people they love. In the process though, they alienate themselves from the Afghans that (shocker) don’t want to star in a Hollywood documentary or become the poster child for “those poor people on that side of the world” and just want to reconstruct the pieces of their life that the war tore apart.
Not to mention that when I say the boys live in California, I mean the Bay Area. Specifically, San Jose. Specifically, in a street fifteen minutes away from my house. As in, one of these fictional boys goes to a Gold’s Gym that I drive past every so often. And Abdullah, the main character of the novel, owns a “fictional” kabob store that’s actually 20 minutes into San Jose. I thought I was going crazy when I was reading, but it turns out Khaled Hosseini, my favorite author of all time, lives a tiny ways away from me in San Jose. I might have taken his order at Sandwich Spot (which would be so much easier to notice if people actually gave me their real names. We live in Cupertino, y’all. I knew how to spell Kshitij before I knew what “Walmart” was. You can’t all be really named Steve.)
Anyway, this book is up there in my top five favorite books (you’re still there, Junie B. Jones), and I recommend it to anyone looking to mess up their mascara.