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On May 21, 2013, the new novel from Khaled Hosseini: an unforgettable story about finding a lost piece of yourself in someone else.
Khaled Hosseini, the number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globefrom Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinosthe story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each passing minute.
I read this because I really enjoyed The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, also by Mr. Hosseini.
One of the things I most enjoy about his books is stepping into Afghani culture, through the description of surroundings, ways of life, language, or characters' mindsets. That was certainly true here. He is a master at "the big twist" -- a shift in the story towards the end of the book that I wasn't expecting, and found to be quite moving. He is also great at doing "little twists", which keep you guessing about how well you know each character and his or her relationship to the other characters, and make the story very entertaining.
I struggled with the structure of this book. The narrative jumps among several characters, places, and points in time with abandon. I typically do not mind a non-linear narrative, but in this case I found it hard to follow, especially because the revolving narrators did not tie directly to characters.
When I listened to The Kite Runner (narrated by Mr. Hosseini), I was rapt by his pronunciation of the Farsi words, names of people and places in Afghanistan, etc.; it certainly added a level of enjoyment to my experience that is part of why I love audiobooks in the first place. In And the Mountains Echoed, however, so much concentration was at times required to follow the accented English of Mr. Negahban and Ms. Aghdashloo that the effect was lost.
The decision to layer multiple narrators on top of multiple narratives strikes me as a failed experiment. I would have enjoyed this more if Hosseini had narrated the whole thing himself.
5 of 8 people found this review helpful
I hate to bring up anything negative on such a wonderful novel, but it was a minor detraction for me (and I wanted to explain my less-than-five-star rating for the Story). It seemed, as the novel was moving along, to be several individual stories—sometimes tied to the initial characters by the thinnest of threads. In the end, however, it did mesh together better than I thought it would.
Despite the above, I really did love this book—it is a beautifully written novel without some of the very hard subjects that were found in Khaled Hosseini’s previous books. And I cried—a sure sign that I was totally engrossed and loving it! I would not hesitate to read anything he chooses to write.
The narration in this book was an adjustment for me—fairly strong accents on two of the three narrators (Mr. Hosseini narrates a few sections, but he is very easy to understand). But shortly into the novel, I no longer considered it awkward, and I felt it added to the realism of the story as it unfolded.
I hope to meet this author at the National Book Festival this year—I thoroughly enjoyed all three of his books, and would love to tell him so!!
5 of 8 people found this review helpful
"A mountain keeps an echo deep inside. That's how I hold your voice." Rumi
You prepare your heart when reading Hosseini; you know you will feel the tug of those heart strings that bind us to humanity. He writes about universal themes - family, love, loss, betrayal, courage - with a sincerity that doesn't pander for emotions (his foundation and humanitarian work with the people of Afghanistan, from where he draws his characters, speaks to this sincerity and dedication) yet takes aim at our core. With the voice of a poet, Hosseini captivates his readers with characters facing challenges that test human limitations. Of course, it adds to the complex atmosphere and mystique of his story that he writes about a historically and mythologically rich country that is unfamiliar to most of us. It's clear from the very beginning of this new book -- when a father tucks his children into their beds around a desert campfire and conjures up a allegorical fable of a monster that steals children away in the night (a Jungian's delight, and magical beginning) -- that the author has written a beautiful story that will have us, once again, feeling that familiar tug. And the Mountains Echoed spares very few readers the pang of empathy, but unlike its predecessors, the approach is light handed and the violence is minimal.
I purposely am avoiding outlining the plot. This is one of the first times that I have read a review prior to listening to the book, that truly was a spoiler--going into this novel with so much information almost ruined the journey for me. The beginning fable does foreshadow the events to come, but I would like to have gotten to that destination with my own interpretations of the view along the way -- it's just that kind of story. Spanning several generations, the story tells how the choices made early in the genealogy dictated the course of latter family members. It's not the events themselves that construct the human drama over the years, but how the events are acted upon by the characters. Hosseini's characters come from a history of tumult; they internalize their emotions, because of personal reasons, political tensions, cultural upbringing--their harsh world doesn't allow the luxury of licking their wounds, processing or resolution. The resulting legacy they build is one of pain, regret, sorrow, and secrecy.
The beginning is powerful with the imagery and the foreshadowing. You'll read that some critics thought the middle section suffered from the addition of new characters, and I have to agree. Though good material, it just wasn't in the same rich vein as the wonderfully dimensioned beginning chapters, and only detracted from the emotional heart of the saga, slowing down a story that never seemed to regain the same momentum-- it just rolls to a good place to wrap up. My favorite -- the narration! (I can't wait to see the reviews on this subject!) From the rich, sexy foreign voice of Hosseini to the sultry smoky voice of Shohreh Aghdashloo...there were simply times I couldn't understand what the h3LL they were saying, but could've cared less because they sounded so great saying whatever it was! I adored the narration, with all the limitations of my white-bread ears. Their voices added great texture and authenticity--I can't imagine the story presented any other way, but doubt that will be the consensus.
Fans of Hosseini will feel rewarded for the wait. There was something about Kite Runner -- the innocence, the look into the social landscape and family structure -- that I liked better; but, the moments of beauty singular to this book: the children listening to the fable, the sound of a tinkling bell, the devoted Chauffer's and his letter, the scrappy eared dog...still give me that little stab in the heart and keep me in an emotional orbit.
46 of 77 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
I am not finished the book yet. I am having a very hard time understanding the narrator of chapters 2 and 5 thus far. The stories are very interesting and I love the way they all link together. But it is difficult to follow so far. I will continue to listen because I love the stories. I just hope I can get through it.
What didn’t you like about the narrators’s performance?
I do not like the narration of chapters 2 and 5 so far. The speech is slurred and the accent is very heavy. The other narrators are perfect. However, it is very difficult to follow being that all the stories are linked and some of them are difficult to understand.
21 of 35 people found this review helpful
This was a book that was done right.... this is an audiobook that was done right! This is undoubtedly the best audiobook and probably the best book I have gone through all year and without question will rank amongst one of the best books I have read/listened to in a long time! The storyline was simply honest, the wording itself seemed flawless, the pacing perfect and the narration was downright immaculate.
Clearly you can see from my review thus far that I am raving about this book and when I do people tend to ask me "Why? Why is this book so great to you?" When I answer this question I can't say anything like "There is an amazing twist" or "The action is awesome"... All I can say is that you should try thinking about the perfect day, sun shining, it not being too hot, a nice gentle breeze and you taking a long ride to the country with your favorite song playing and with perfect company to boot...
This book isn't so much about the ending because truth be told you could probably have predicted the ending after a few chapters.... But what you DO get to enjoy is the journey. It is honest, sobering, tragic, paced to perfection and beautifully woven. You find yourself enjoying the different storylines that pops up, the interesting quotes that you find along the way, the beautiful sceneries they describe and mostly the stirring emotions that are evoked. Love, lost, sacrifice, hope, truth, hate… life is described in this book.
The narration was superb. I could listen to Shohreh Aghdashloo all day I believe. She truly has a story teller's voice, a voice that in and of itself is seemed innately engrained with a story in and of itself. I've always thought that she would have been a great narrator and she did not disappoint, I truly could listen to her do anything probably. Navid Negahban another impressive narrator which did just an amazing job here as well. Khaled Hosseini the author as well as a narrator here did a surprisingly impressive job. I honestly did not expect him to do so well but he actually 'exceeded my expectations'. I felt like the pacing in this book was so perfectly done you could close your eyes, lay on your back and just visualize the amazing world being dictated to you.
All in all this is one of those books that has gotten a lot of hype and deserved every single one of them. Absolutely and positively done RIGHT!
14 of 24 people found this review helpful
Khaled Hosseini has done it again. He's written another fabulous book that practically defies description. The story told in And the Mountains Echoed is so intricate and yet told so clearly that the reader is amazed as the complexity as the story unfolds. The story spans generations and countries, but is authentic and real and heart felt. I can't praise it enough. The narrators were also terrific, though the accent of one of the male narrators took some time to get used to. 5 stars - It was amazing. I loved it!
4 of 7 people found this review helpful
I loved this book from beginning to end. The narration was perfect, except for one section where, for some reason, Navid Negahban’s accent seemed to get strong enough to be distracting. That said, I could not imagine listening to the book without these voices. Shohreh Aghdashloo’s musky tones are particularly mesmerizing and I was glad it ended with her.
The story—about family; about duty; about losses and loves that “echo” forever; about bonds broken, sometimes irrevocably and sometimes not—starts in the fifties and follows the characters until the present, except “follows” is the wrong word since this tale is not told chronologically. You are with one character, leave him or her to go visit another, rediscover that person again at another time and place and get glimpses of what has transpired while you were away. Back and forth until the story comes to a close about which I can’t really say much without spoiling it. Suffice it to say that Hosseini pulls a forgotten memento out of his pocket and makes the moment magical. You gasp, in awe.
The language is lyrical. The emotions are true and poignant. At one point, I was listening while driving and broke down in tears (pretty embarrassing since it was in broad daylight). At another, I felt compelled to stop reading and call my mother who lives in another state just to say hello in the middle of the day. Hosseini reminds you how easy it is to lose the thread that binds us. To take care.
I hope it doesn’t take him six years to write another gem.
10 of 18 people found this review helpful
Hosseini has an amazingly intimate understanding of human relationships and invests it in his novel. However, the narration is one of the most difficult I have ever heard. Rather than relaxing and submerging myself in the literary art of the author, I am constantly struggling to understand what is narrated, frequently replaying sections. While meaning absolutely no disrespect for the individual narrators or for any ethnic accent, I can come up with no reason whatsoever why a book narrated in any given language shouldn't indeed be narrated in that natural language rather than heavily accented from another language. If I write a book in English but wish it to be narrated in Afghanistan, I would make a point of finding a narrator who spoke natural Pashto and/or Dari, not in a heavily accented foreign-language translation. Just writing this note leaves me frustrated since I doubt it will reach any ear that will have any constructive effect. I must assume that the author himself is involved in the choice of the narrators and I do wish he were able to see this comment in the respectful manner in which it is intended.
16 of 29 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This book is SO good it reminds me of how crappy most of the other books I listen to really are. I listen to many audiobooks. I have 4 active audible accounts. Most of the books I listen to are, at best, casual entertainment while I work. They are not great. This book IS GREAT. It is a treasure! It makes me sad because I know that soon this book will come to an end, and when it ends, I will be back searching through all the mediocre books again. Always searching, always hoping that I will find a book like this one. Books like this are as rare as can be. If ONLY there were more like this …
21 of 40 people found this review helpful
I find the writing of Khaled Hosseini to be magical and this book does not disappoint. However, if you are expecting a similar book to the previous two by this author, don't.
This book is very different. The style is different, whereas, there is no stand out scene nor is there a build up to a conclusion. It is the story of various characters, each separate and distinct from one another, but there is are threads that connect the characters to one another. The storytelling is beautiful. Imagine yourself sitting outside on a beautiful day under a tree with your grandmother or grandfather telling you stories about your ancestry. That's how I felt listening to this book.
Hosseini weaves the themes of family, heritage and guilt throughout the character's stories and the how and why each deals with these themes is interesting and thought provoking.
There are so many different facets to this novel that I enjoyed that it will take me some time to reflect on them. I will be recommending this to my friends and look forward to discussing the book with them. A solid 4.5 rating from me...I thoroughly enjoyed two of the three narrators. The third was not bad, I just enjoyed him less.
11 of 21 people found this review helpful