Family Reads: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

 Welcome to Family Reads! Family Reads is a monthly feature where my mom, dad or sister and I read and discuss a book. Posts with a link-up go live during the last week of each month, so feel free to grab the banner and join in however you like.

Reno: This post was meant to go up at the end of July, but evidently I didn’t finish it then…Well, here it is now! Let me introduce my final participant – my Dad! Dad chose this month’s book. I’d never read anything by Hosseini, so this was a good opportunity to give him a go.

Dad: I wanted to read this book because I really liked The Kite Runner. I had also seen a lot of positive reviews about And the Mountains Echoed.

I give this book 3 stars and Dad gives it 3.5 stars (he says, “I’m not a big reader, otherwise I might give it 4 stars. I re-read The Kite Runner but that was by accident. I started reading it, thought ‘Hey, this is familiar…’ and then kept reading it because it was good!”). This discussion was a little more challenging for us than the others – Dad doesn’t usually talk about the books he reads, and I don’t usually read this kind of story. But, that’s why I wanted to start doing these Family Reads! We both enjoyed reflecting on this book through conversation. You’ll get more out of this discussion if you’ve read the book (spoilers ahead!). Here’s our condensed discussion on chronology, characters, and how the stories fit together.

They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind.

Dad: I liked the book because it’s about human interest, about real life, and I like those types of stories. For years I only read genre books like spy or mystery novels. Then I started reading more books like these – stories about ordinary lives. I found And the Mountains Echoed interesting and challenging because I was trying to understand what’s happening in the story, as it jumps around so much. The story’s kind of choppy; it can be very non-linear. Didn’t you wonder about how the character’s lives connect, how they might be introduced early on, you wonder how they connect, and then find out later on?
Reno: I liked that interlocking component to the stories, but I wasn’t dying to figure everything out or actively put it together. What about you?
Dad: No, I didn’t think too hard, either. I just read and thought, “Oh, that’s cool, I see” as things started to cohere. Like how you’re introduced to the doctor across the street, then you get a back story on him and how he connects to Nabi’s (and therefore Pari’s) story.
Reno: That was the main story for me – Nabi and all the characters who are affected by his story – even if Pari seems to be the main connecting thread.
Dad: I found it a bit confusing to keep track of Pari’s family.
Reno: Yeah, the story of Adel and his Admiral dad really confused me. I’m not sure how it fit in. At first I thought the old man and his son fighting to get back their land were Saboor and Abdullah. It was someone related to them, but I can’t remember who or how. That story didn’t seem too integral – you could have skipped it and not missed anything.
Dad: Mostly, though, I liked how the storytelling worked. You couldn’t predict where it was going.
Reno: Yeah! Because you have so many characters working in different ways. But on the flip side, I found some of the stories didn’t really fit for me. Such as the Greek doctor and his childhood friend. It was kind of a long story… I guess it shows why Markos is in Afghanistan. I can feel my brain hurting trying to figure it out! Some people don’t like all the little stories. They think the book is too disconnected. What did you think?
Dad: No, I thought it forced me to pay attention to what I was reading. I made notes, arrows of names and connections. …
Reno: I should have done that, haha. It was okay while I was reading but now I’m forgetting names and who was who. Especially with the two Paris at the end!
*We talked about Idris and Tamir’s story*
Dad: So, how did that tie in?
Reno: I guess that’s the big question about this book! How do all these stories tie in? They grew up across the street from Nabi, but it seems they have nothing to do with his story. It’s a good story on its own, but what’s the point of including their story in the novel? I guess you have to decide for yourself if you want to make the connections (hm, in this way maybe it is a bit like Annihilation!). I guess you can discount some stories more than others. Consider how you like the book and making connections but some stories you don’t even remember.
Dad: I would reread it to understand the connections better. It’s not that I want to reread it because it was amazing.
Reno: Hear hear.

 Have you anything by Hosseini? What would you add to our conversation?