Sunday, 21 December 2014

And The Mountain Echoed


Title : And The Mountain Echoed
Writer : Khaled Hosseini
Number of Page : 404 
Publisher : Bloomsbury

Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and step-mother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Adbullah, Pari, as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named, is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their skulls touching, their limbs tangled.

One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand.

Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways that we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history, and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.
 



Review:
Warning: Spoiler!

Khaled Hosseini will always be my favorite author. Since the first time I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I knew he would never disappoint me. The Kite Runner proved me right because I love that book very much that I could never forget the heartbreaking emotion that I felt after reading it. I still feel the bittersweet aftertaste every time I reread about Amir and Hassan. 

Unfortunately, And The Mountain Echoed was quite pale in comparison to the previous two. Don't get me wrong, I still love the prose and the beautiful sentences because those are the best things about Mr. Hosseini's writing. The story itself was very good, full of tragedies and helpless moments as usual. But, the book did not move me to tears at all.

The book started with an interesting tale of a small village. A div would come now and then to random family and ask them to sacrifice one of their child. One father, named Baba Ayub, had five children. He loved them all, especially the youngest one, Qais. Sadly for them, the div chose Baba Ayub that day. Baba Ayub had to give one child. He had a day to choose or all of his children would be taken away. 

"No parent should have to make a choice such as this."

The decision had to be made despite all circumstances. Baba Ayub carved each of his children's names in a rock and blindly took one of them. 

"I suppose you also know which rock Baba Ayub happened to pick. When he saw the name on it, he turned his face heavenward and let out a scream. With a broken heart, he lifted his youngest son into his arms, and Qais, who had blind trust in his father, happily wrapped his arms around Baba Ayub's neck. It wasn't until Baba Ayub deposited him outside the house and shut the door that the boy realized what was amiss, and there stood Baba Ayub, eyes squeezed shut, tears leaking from both, back against the door, as his beloved Qais pounded his small fists on it, crying for Baba to let him back in..."

The div took Qais and fled. But, Baba Ayub would not give up. He prepared himself for his long journey to get his son back. 

What Baba Ayub found at the end of his journey was unexpected. His son was not dead or tortured or anything. The div put all children in a garden to play happily with each other. They ate well and lived in prosper. Baba Ayub saw his son laughed and enjoyed his time and he realized he would never be able to give that kind of life to Qais in the village. The div gave Baba Ayub another chance to choose: to take his son back or let Qais live a better life faraway from him. Baba Ayub chose the latter and he was given a flask of liquid to drink. The potion was meant to erase all his memories of Qais, his journey, and his hurt. It was a reward after all, to forget the pain.

“When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.” 

Such a strong opening for a book, I was hooked immediately. 

It was revealed that a father was telling this tale to his two children. Abdullah and her little sister, Pari were listening without knowing why their father telling them this. The three of them were walking to Kabul. Abdullah and Pari were very excited because they never visited the capital city of Afghanistan.

Abdullah and Pari loved each other like a twin. They had a bond beyond what people could comprehend. Pari might not understand because she was still very young, but Abdullah was big enough to remember. He saw his sister being taken away and adopted. He cried and pleaded so that his father would change his mind, but it was no use. Pari was lost forever and they were not allowed to meet her anymore. 

Yes, Mr. Hosseini. You are very cruel as always to your characters, but I like it. 

I thought the story would keep getting sadder and sadder. But, Mr. Hosseini decided to cut my emotion by making this book like an anthology of novellas. The next chapter was not about Abdullah and Pari. It was about Parwana, Abdullah and Pari's stepmother. Her story was not bad. I felt sad for her too. She fell in love with Abdullah's father since she was young. But, her twin sister had the same feeling as hers. Parwana always lost because her twin sister was more bright and never hesitated to crush Parwana's confidence. At the end, Parwana did marry Abdullah's father. However, she could only be the second wife.

The next chapter was a letter between Uncle Nabi, Parwana's brother and his foreign friend, Dr. Markos. Nabi worked as a butler for Wahdati's family, the same family who adopted Pari. From this chapter, I came to know the reason why Pari was adopted. 

Mrs. Wahdati was sterile and not happy. She was lonely all the time, especially because her husband was a cold and quiet person. Nabi felt sorry for her, he understood and the two of them became friends. However, Nabi felt more than that. He loved Mrs. Wahdati and that made him propose a crazy idea to his brother-in-law. Poor and cornered, his brother-in-law reluctantly agreed. 

Nabi was right. Pari was the best present to Mrs. Wahdati. Pari brought happiness and warmth to that family. Even Mr. Wahdati loved her. But, Nabi was forgotten. Mrs. Wahdati spent all of her time only with Pari. Heartbroken, Nabi could not do anything. He even felt ashamed now that his brother-in-law banned him to come visiting. He was considered as a traitor to the family. And as if it was not enough, Mr. Wahdati fell ill. Mr. Wahdati could not work and provide money to the house anymore. Seeing this, Mrs. Wahdati decided to go to Paris with Pari and left her husband. One by one, the servants also left the house. Only Nabi stayed because he had nowhere to go. At the end of the letter, I found a big secret that Mr. Wahdati always kept to himself. Mrs. Wahdati knew this and that was the reason she left. 

There were several chapters telling about characters that did not have a direct relationship with Pari and Abdullah. They were quite distracting because I always stopped reading after finishing one chapter. It was like starting a whole new story every time. But, non surprisingly, they were good. There were heartbreaking moments in each stories. For example, the story about Dr. Markos. He was Nabi's friend who lived in Mr. Wahdati's house. He rarely visited her mother because his work required him to move from one place to another. I learnt about persistent love of a mother and a faithful promise from a tough defected girl that was left by her mother. There was also a chapter about a son from wealthy family in Shadbagh (a village where Abdullah once had lived) named Adel. His father was known as a generous man who built and restored  the country after the destruction of war. Adel then made a friend with a poor kid whose father owned a piece of land that Adel's father restored without consent. Adel would soon learnt that his father was not as good as he thought.  

Another important chapter was about Pari in Paris. Her life was okay, full with modern people's problems. Her biggest concern was her wild mother who never seemed to feel satisfied with whatever Pari did. And of course, there was a hollow inside her like something was lost and forgotten. A brother she didn't know, a brother in the past.

“You say you felt a presence, but I only sensed an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like a patient who cannot tell the doctor where it hurts, only that it does.” 

Pari only knew one thing. She had to visit Afghanistan to learn about the past. A long search brought her to Dr. Markos.

“But it is important to know this, to know your roots. To know where you started as a person. If not, your own life seems unreal to you. Like a puzzle. Vous comprenez? Like you have missed the beginning of a story and now you are in the middle of it, trying to understand.” 

The last chapter was a connection to the past. It was told from the point of view of Abdullah's daughter in America. Her name was also Pari. She always dreamed to be an artist and study arts in university. But, her father was sick and she could not leave him. She was forced to forget her dreams. 

The two women with the same name met. The young Pari felt as if she finally could see the true form of a girl from her father's stories. The old Pari, for the first time in her life, felt like she finally put all the puzzle pieces together. She didn't remember Abdullah, but she now had the chance to know him. However, Abdullah had been long gone in his Alzheimer. He no longer remembered anything. It was like the first tale in the beginning of the book. Maybe Abdullah's pain was too great that God gave him mercy by erasing all his memories.

I didn't know what to say. The ending made me speechless with all the bittersweet moments when the old Pari tried to know more about Abdullah. The long journey from when they were small ended with just this? Why? Abdullah met his sister only after he forgot everything. That was cruel. Too sad, too heartbreaking. 

Once again, Mr. Hosseini did a wonderful job. This book was not as good as its predecessors, but it was still very damn good. The story was a gem. Very recommended. And I will wait for your next book, Mr. Hosseini.

“She considers for a minute before saying, "I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that. I should have been more kind.” 

5/5

2 comments:

  1. Huwaaa aku kepengen baca. Udah numpuk sih ebooknya.. hihi
    Nice review!

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    1. Ayo dibaca, oky... Nggak bakl nyesel, bagus banget hihihi

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