And the Mountains Echoed is arguably Hosseini’s finest novel to date, a sweeping saga that extends beyond the confines of his native Afghanistan and touches on the universal issues surrounding parental and sibling relationships under the strain of economic hardship, geographic dislocation, and sacrifice. Hosseini’s novel begins with a poor father telling his son and daughter a beautiful folk tale about a man forced to sacrifice one of his children to a demon for the good of his village. That tale has a happy ending, but the next day, the father gives up his daughter to a wealthy family in the city of Kabul in order to ensure that his own family will survive the winter, threatening a unique bond between sister and brother which somehow manages to endure—almost mystically–over space and time.
Hosseini follows both families—the original one and the adoptive one—over generations, with multiple spin-offs as more and more fascinating characters and their backstories are introduced. We skip backwards and forwards across time; we skip across oceans to Greece, France, and the U.S., and back again to Afghanistan; and we hear—in first and third person, sometimes as narration, sometimes as journal entries, sometimes as an epistolary—how both men and women have been affected by the dramatic changes in their home country.
Once again, the plight of Afghani women is treated by author Hosseini with tremendous sympathy and, more importantly, with genuine authenticity, but in this novel, unlike in his awesome A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini gives the reader a more nuanced reading into the minds and souls of his characters, male as well as female. They are neither victims nor perpetrators, but real people with choices to make and consequences to face. Yes, there is tragedy on both a large and small scale, but Hosseini’s exquisite writing enables his readers to profoundly share in the lives of his characters and come out the stronger for it.