Choice rif­fles

And the Moun­tains Echoed

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ella De­lany

By Khaled Hos­seini Blooms­bury, 401pp, $32.99

KHALED Hos­seini’s new novel, And the Moun­tains Echoed, skil­fully in­ves­ti­gates the ways in which our iden­ti­ties are shaped by de­ci­sions past and present. This is a broad story stretch­ing across gen­er­a­tions and con­ti­nents, bound with themes of fa­mil­ial obli­ga­tion, shame and sac­ri­fice — pre­oc­cu­pa­tions that will be fa­mil­iar to read­ers of the Afghanistan-born Amer­i­can writer’s wildly pop­u­lar ear­lier works, The Kite Run­ner (2003) and A Thou­sand Splen­did Suns (2007).

And the Moun­tains Echoed opens with a folk story about a div, a mon­ster that haunts Afghan vil­lages. In each vil­lage, the div chooses a sin­gle house and steals one child in re­turn for spar­ing the rest of the fam­ily. One fa­ther who loses a son trav­els to the mon­ster’s lair to re­trieve him — only to dis­cover his child’s life there is very dif­fer­ent from what he had imag­ined.

Pari and her brother Ab­dul­lah are a cap­tive au­di­ence to this nar­ra­tive. The two chil­dren are sit­ting in the mid­dle of the desert lis­ten­ing to the sto­ry­teller, their fa­ther Sa­boor. Via flash­backs, we learn Pari and Ab­dul­lah lead a happy, if im­pov­er­ished, ex­is­tence in the Afghan vil­lage of Shad­bagh in 1952.

The chil­dren are watched over by their fa­ther and their step­mother Par­wana. An ador­ing brother, Ab­dul­lah col­lects ex­otic feath­ers for his sis­ter, which she keeps in an old tin tea box un­der her bed.

Yet trou­ble is on the hori­zon for the fam­ily. Sa­boor is en route to Kabul with Pari and Ab­dul­lah to face a dif­fi­cult choice: should he give up Pari to Nila — a wealthy and beau­ti­ful Afghan woman un­able to have chil­dren of her own — or rear her with his wife in Shad­bagh?

Nila is an artis­tic type who chafes against the re­stric­tions on women in 1950s Kabul. She ig­nores her hus­band, drinks liquor and wears sleeve­less dresses. Sa­boor de­cides to give up his daugh­ter, and this choice re­ver­ber­ates through­out the lives of the wide ar­ray of char­ac­ters in this novel.

In a se­ries of small, some­times over­lap­ping sto­ries we peer into the past of Sa­boor’s

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.