If you have ever patched a quilt or watched your grandmother sew one, you’ll know - how the needle and thread join each square piece of cloth with another to form one single design. For a first timer, the work-in-progress is intriguing, unsure of what shape it will take. But for those who know the drill, it is just a repetition of a geometric method.
Khaled Hosseini’s latest novel, And The Mountains Echoed, takes the reader on a similar journey, through Kabul, Paris, San Francisco and the Greek Island of Tinos. It reminds you of a story you once read, or a movie you watched where two people were pulled apart. Like the quilt, it weaves together nine stories with one common thread - a past.
The year is 1952, in Shadbagh, Kabul Saboor narrates a fairy tale to his children Abdullah and Pari about a family that must give away one child to the div (demon) failing which he would take away all the children of the household. The moral of the story - one must cut a finger to save the hand.
This bedtime tale is of separation, loss and that noiseless presence of an absence, setting the mood for the events to come. The siblings, who mean the world to each other, are separated after their father Saboor sells Pari to a rich couple Nila and Suleiman Wahdati in Kabul, for money to keep the house running during the wicked winter. This transaction takes place through their driver Nabi, who happens to be Saboor’s brother-in-law.
The separation turns into a backdrop in the lives of the people it touches on the way. It creates new bonds that develop out of this faded connection to the past. But, the past is always there, hovering silently over the present.
While the book does not have a nail-biting plot, Hosseini does manage to create a mystery by narrating nine independent stories that have one interlinking element. The threads that hold the book together are his characters - vibrant, with a mind of their own, dropping clues and threading events, one stitch at a time. The most touching narrative is between two characters with the same name, Pari.
The plot holds for the curious reader who is intrigued to find out what happens in the end. Do they meet again? Do they rekindle the bond that got lost in time? Pick up the book, but don’t expect the magic of The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns.
And The Mountains Echoed Khaled Housseini Published by Bloomsbury Rs 599