Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Summary: An unforgettable novel about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.

Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page. -- Riverside

I know I'm not alone when I say that I've been waiting what seems like forever for the release of AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED by Khaled Hosseini. (It's actually been six years!) I loved THE KITE RUNNER and then I loved A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS even more, and I admit that I was a little afraid that the new novel might not live up to my expectations. I couldn't be happier to tell you that I had no reason to even question Mr. Hosseini's writing abilities because, in my opinion, AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED is even better than his first two novels. It was nothing short of amazing and this author has definitely reached new heights with this epic story.

If you took the time to read the book's description at the beginning of this post, then you might have noticed that the summary for AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED is rather vague. Initially, I thought that the publisher was keeping the book's plot under wraps to entice more readers. And then after I finished reading the book, I figured it might be because the story encompasses so much that it might be hard to summarize it in just a few sentences -- I still feel that way! However, I've now decided that the best reason not to give a detailed description is because this novel is supposed to be experienced knowing little, if anything, about the characters or their lives. I absolutely adored discovering these characters' rich and complex lives as their stories beautifully unfolded.

Needless to say, I don't want to give too much away but I will tell you a little bit about the novel. The story begins when a poor Afghan man decides to give up his young daughter to a wealthy family in Kabul. The scene when the girl is separated from her older brother, who views himself as her caregiver, is gut-wrenching and memorable; and the fallout from their separation is reflected throughout the rest of the novel with various stories that span over 60 years and a variety of countries including France, Greece and the United States. All of these stories and the characters are intertwined, and they explore the complicated themes of love, loss and family.

I adored every story in this novel (I don't think I can pick favorites!), and I even had takeaways from each chapter. If you know me, then you know that that is truly saying a lot. Each story seemed more beautiful and moving than the next as the characters and their lives expanded through the years. However, as much as I adored all of these stories, I think what Mr. Hosseini was able to do with the ending of this novel is what made it absolutely outstanding in my opinion. He came back to that original story of separation and showed that it's possible for beauty and goodness to come out of difficult situations. I'm actually tearing up while typing this review because I loved the feeling of hope that this book allowed me to experience.

Words can't even express how much I loved AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED. Truly, I was blown away by every single page of this novel. My emotions were on a roller coaster ride the entire time and I appreciated being able to "feel" so much. Mr. Hosseini, who has already sold something like 38 million books, is no doubt a talented writer. However, in AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED, he's proven that he's one of the very best out there right now. He just keeps getting better and better! The grand scale of this book, not to mention how he brought everything back full circle with the ending, made waiting those six, long years well worth the wait.

It's no surprise that I am going to recommend AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED for book clubs. If you've read either of Mr. Hosseini's other novels, then you know how much there is to discuss. However, I think AND THE MOUNTAINS ECHOED just might be his most book club worthy novel to date. There are just so many universal themes about human nature in this novel that warrant further discussion. Fortunately, I was able to find a reading guide, not because you absolutely need one, but rather because it might help keep your discussion on track. There is just so much to discuss with this book! Some of the topics you might want to explore include family, sacrifice, love, loss, forgiveness, redemption, morals, and choices. You can also discuss some symbolism like the title and the old oak tree.

Trust me on this one -- you don't want to miss out on reading this amazing book. Highly recommend! (I'd give this one 5 Stars if I had a rating system!)

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I've heard nothing but good about this book. Actually more than good. People are totally freaking out over it, like they did with the first two books (which were excellent, although I did always feel that the author was trying really hard to make me cry. This is currently loaded on my iPod, I just have about a half dozen REALLY GOOD audios to get through.

bermudaonion said...

I think the publisher was vague because the book is hard to summarize and because it's best to experience the story on your own. I just adored this book and want to go back and read Hosseini's other work.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Sandy sent me the audio, and while I don't usually LISTEN to fiction, I can't wait to get to this one!

Beth F said...

I agree with Kathy -- I just skimmed your review because I'm in the process of writing my own. :)

Beth Hoffman said...

Wonderful review, Julie. I'm so eager to read this one!

Stacie said...

We almost picked this for our book club read this month, but went with WILD instead. After just reading THE STORYTELLER we felt like we needed a bit of an emotional break. But, after reading your review, we may need to choose it next month! Great review!