Early reviews are in and they’ve confirmed what we’ve known all along: Khaled Hosseini’s latest novel, “And the Mountains Echoed,” is a hit. It’s also a surprisingly nuanced, morally complex, exquisitely told tear-jerker.
Take it from the Washington Post’s book reviewer, Marcela Valdes.
“I’m not an easy touch when it comes to novels, but Hosseini’s new book, 'And the Mountains Echoed,' had tears dropping from my eyes by Page 45,” she writes, positing that Hosseini’s “secret ingredient might be intense emotion.”
Hosseini’s third book, “And the Mountains Echoed,” hits stores Tuesday, six years after his previous two books captivated millions of readers and spent years on the bestseller list. His 2003 debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” was published in 70 countries and spent almost two years on bestseller lists. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” also became a bestseller in 2007. Together, the two books have sold more than 38 million copies.
“And the Mountains Echoed” isn't due out until tomorrow but pre-orders of the book, in both print and e-book versions, have already exceeded those of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by almost 95 percent on Amazon.com.
Like the previous two, Hosseini’s latest novel is a heart-wrenching story. “And the Mountains Echoed” is set partly in Afghanistan, but action also takes place in California, Paris, and the Greek Islands. Early reviews have called it a story about family, separation, and sibling relationships. It begins with an Afghan tale about a horrific monster called a div who comes to an Afghan village to demand the sacrifice of a child. The consequences of the resulting sacrifice of a favored son echo through the lives of all the characters explored in the book, most importantly siblings Abdullah and Pari.
Unlike “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” “And the Mountains Echoed” is constructed as a series of stories, each set in a different place and time and told from a different point of view.
“In less skillful hands, this structure might seem more like a compilation of short stories than a novel,” writes the Post’s Valdes. “But Hosseini carefully divvies up details about the circumstances preceding and following Abdullah and Pari’s fateful afternoon, giving the book a satisfying sense of momentum and consequence.”
One thing that may come as a surprise to readers: There’s far less "Afghanistan" and "conflict" in this novel. It appears to be a deliberate decision by Hosseini to reframe the country in readers’ psyches as any other setting and not as a country defined by war, conflict, and turmoil.
“I hope a day will come when we write about Afghanistan, where we can speak about Afghanistan in a context outside of the wars and the struggles of the last 30 years,” he told NPR. “In some way I think this book is an attempt to do that.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.