POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 2, 2013
The story that Khaled Hosseini tells in "And the Mountains Echoed" is one of loss and love — in that order.
At its heart, this tale spells out what happens when a brother and sister are torn apart as children — a father's choice to do what he hopes is the right thing.
But for Abdullah and Pari, children in 1952 Afghanistan who have lost their mother and now have a stepmother and a new half brother, the separation defines their selves and their survival.
"And the Mountains Echoed"
Author: Khaled Hosseini
(Riverhead; 402 pages; $28.95)
They are not the only siblings separated in Hosseini's first novel since 2007's "A Thousand Splendid Suns." Their stepmother and her twin sister are separated by death; she also loses her brother, Nabi, when he moves to Kabul.
But Nabi plays a crucial role in his sister's family. Working as a chauffeur and houseman for a well-to-do, childless couple, the Wahdatis, Nabi introduces Nila Wahdati to his sister and her poor family.
<t-6>Nila, who cannot have children, is enchanted by the little girl, Pari. Later the girl is "adopted," escaping the poverty of rural Afghanistan for the wealth of Kabul.
The moment of separation, when Pari realizes she is being taken away from her brother, is painful even by Nabi's recollection:
"I will never forget the sudden emotional mayhem. Pari slung over my shoulder, panic-stricken, kicking her legs, shrieking, ‘Abollah! Abollah!' as I whisked her away. Abdullah, screaming his sister's name, trying to fight past his father."
So while Pari grows up being told she is the Wahdatis' natural child, she always remembers fragments from before.
Readers get a full picture of Pari's life — her marriage, her children and other relationships — while learning less about Abdullah.
It's only toward the end of this beautiful tale of family that Hosseini reveals more about Abdullah, still devoted to his long-gone sister and still, somehow, hoping they will be reunited.
"‘She was perfect,' he would say."
The same might be said of this novel.
--Amanda St. Amand / St. Louis Post-Dispatch