As a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s books, I jumped at the chance to read his latest novel. The author once again delivered a gem of a book with vignettes woven into a complex tapestry of the nation and culture that is Afghanistan. Hosseini has arguably done more than any other author redefining contemporary Afghanistan beyond the caricature of a tragic, war-torn mess. His previous bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, paint a colorful portrait of a haunting land misunderstood by many.
His latest is a departure from his tried-and-true formula of writing epic stories that bring to life the rich culture and heritage of the Afghan people. Set in far-flung locales from California to France and Greece, And the Mountains Echoed takes readers to new places and realities. Although the author tried to depict life in the United States and Europe, he merely whetted my appetite to read more about Afghanistan. His homeland is where his pen spills mastery onto the page.
Hosseini detoured from his almost-mythical stories of Afghans who persevered under the most difficult of circumstances toward the frailty and flaws of human nature. And the Mountains Echoed offers more shades of gray than its predecessors. The moral hazards and ambiguity in his characters come to life in fateful decisions that lead to pay-off or penance as their choices affect others whose lives they touch…and their own. The morality tale the author spins may leave readers used to rooting for his typically heroic figures wanting. Those expecting this book to be another Afghan epic may be disappointed.
I laud Hosseini for departing from his previous works and breaking new ground. Though I wished at times while reading the book that it was more like what he is best known for, I appreciated his determination to write something different. It adds to his standing as one of today’s best writers of historical fiction. If you’re a fan of his books, you can’t go wrong once you understand that this novel is different from the rest. I give And the Mountains Echoed four stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.