When you're a Big Name Author who's sold more than 38 million books, you're allowed to coast a bit. And after the phenomenal success of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini could have made a career of churning out the stories his audience expected: heartrending sagas that shed a humanizing light on Afghanistan. But with his third and most ambitious novel yet, Hosseini makes it clear that he's not ready to rest on his Big Name.
Before it burgeons into an epic, And the Mountains Echoed starts small. An impoverished Afghan laborer hands his 3-year-old daughter, Pari, over to a wealthy couple in Kabul, ripping her away from her heartbroken brother, Abdullah. The consequences of this separation then radiate outward through a series of overlapping, perspective-shifting narratives that span six decades bringing together unexpectedly linked characters and jumping from Afghanistan to San Francisco, Paris, and the Greek isle of Tinos. While it hits all the Hosseini sweet spots nostalgia, devastating details, triumph over the odds And the Mountains Echoed covers more ground, both geographically and emotionally, than his previous works. It's not until Hosseini makes the novel small again, for the poignant conclusion, that you fully appreciate what he's accomplished.
For a novel about separation the initial trauma of it and the peace you can eventually find afterward it's fitting that Hosseini makes it hard to say goodbye to the characters, whether it's the aging manservant in a war-ravaged mansion or the stoic Greek matriarch who's never left Tinos. And as you move on, you may discover even richer, more fulfilling connections in the next story, and the next. AThe opening line:
''So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one. Don't either of you ask me for more.''