Bestselling author of And the Mountains Echoed Khaled Hosseini came from very humble beginnings. He was born in Afghanistan on March 4, 1965. He was born in a city that is a central place in all of his novels, Kabul. Hosseini and his family left Afghanistan in 1980 after the Soviets invaded (an event that is featured in his book A Thousand Splendid Suns). They moved to San Jose, California. California is also a common setting in his novels. There, he finished school and became a doctor. In 2003 Hosseini published his first book, called The Kite Runner. It was very successful and was adapted into a Golden Globe-nominated film. The success of The Kite Runner inspired Hosseini to continue his career as a novelist. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini's second novel, was released in 2007, to equal, if not more success than his first book. His third novel, And the Mountains Echoed was recently published in May. Hosseini still lives in California with his family.
And the Mountains Echoed is probably the most beautifully detailed and complicated book I have ever read. The characters and plotlines are interconnected and woven in ways that are very unexpected. As I was reading I wondered how Khaled Hosseini kept himself from getting confused as he read the book. Nonetheless, I had to keep reading because the book was so amazing. To make it a bit easier for future readers of the book, I have made a character map outlining who the characters are related to and important aspects about their relationships such as who is related to who, and such.
Saboor- a poor Afghani man, father to Pari and Abdullah, married to Parwana
Abdullah- son of Saboor
Pari- biological daughter of Saboor, adopted daughter of the Wahdati
Parwana- Saboor's second wife, step mother of Abdullah and Pari
Masooma- twin sister of Parwana, Parwana causes her accident
Iqbal- Abdullah's and Pari's half-brother
Nila Wahdati- a rich Afghani woman living in Kabul, a famous poet, adopted mother of Pari and wife of Suleiman Wahdati
Suleiman Wahdati- a rich man living in Kabul
Idris- cousin of Timur, neighbor of the Wahdatis, becomes a doctor and involved in Roshi's recovery
Timur- cousin of Idris, neighbor of the Wahdatis
Amra Ademovic- a Bosvian nurse working in Kabul, adopted mother and caretaker of Roshi
Roshi- an Afghani girl who was injured in Kabul
Adel- a rich boy who lives near Kabul, his father is a war lord
Gholam- a poor boy who becomes best friends with Adel, the son of Iqbal
Markos Varvaris- a man living on the Greek island of Tinos, he becomes a plastic surgeon and develops a friendship with Amra Ademovic
Ms. Varvaris- Markos' mother, she takes in Thalia
Thalia- an injured girl who becomes friends with Markos and lives with him and his mother after she is abandoned by her mother, Thalia takes care of Ms. Varvaris when she is older
Madeline- Thalia's mother and Marko's mother's best friend, she is an "actress"
Pari (#2, not pictured on the map above)- Abdullah's daughter, reunites him with his sister after years of being apart
And the Mountains Echoed starts out with Saboor, Abdullah and Pari's father, telling them a bedtime story. The story is a folktale telling the story of a man named Baba Ayub. Baba Ayub has five children, three sons and two daughters. On the outside he appears to love all of his children equally, but he secretly loves his son Qais the most. One day a monster called the div arrives in Baba Ayub's village, seeking to take one child from the village. The div chooses Baba to have to give up a child. Unfortunately, Baba Ayub must give up Qais. Several years later, Baba Ayub sets out on a quest to bring back his son.
Wait a minute...a quest?
Yes! This folk tale follows the five guidelines written in How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster:
1. A Quester- In this folk tale, the quester is Baba Ayub.
2. A Place to Go- Baba Ayub is journeying to the lair of the div, which is located on a mountain.
3. A Stated Reason to Go- Baba Ayub sets out on his journey with the intention of returning to the village with his son, rescuing him from the hands of the div.
4. Challenges and Trials En Route- Once Baba Ayub arrives at the mountainous lair, he is greeted by the div. Baba threatens to kill the div, who then offers to show him something. The div takes him to a wonderful garden where he sees many children happily playing, including his son Qais. The div forces a decision upon Baba Ayub, will he let Qais continue living in happiness in the garden, or take him home to a life of poverty?
5. The Real Reason to go is always... Self-Knowledge!- When faced with the div's question Baba Ayub chooses for Qais to stay with the div. He makes this decision out of love, and passes the div's test. With this, Baba Ayub learns that he is a strong individual and a good father. He learns that he must sometimes make tough decisions to make his children happy.
Thomas C. Foster tells us in How to Read Literature LIke a Professor that when a character has a physical deformity of any kind, that the author has differentiated them from other people for a specific reason. An example of this is the character Thalia in And the Mountains Echoed. Thalia is the victim of a terrible dog attack that took place when she was five years old. Her severe facial scarring is the result of the attack and the failed reconstruction surgery. Thalia's mother, Madeline, forces her to wear a mask to cover up her scars. While her scar makes Thalia a unique character, Khaled Hosseini had a completely different purpose when he wrote that detail into the novel. Like previously stated, Thalia wears a mask. Her mask separates her from other people. It enables her to sit back and observe other people. Because she is an observer, Thalia is able to perfectly analyze other people's actions and the reasons behind them. When her mother goes on a business trip, she sends a letter to Thalia. Thalia is able to deduce that her mother is never returning just by reading this letter. Thalia has a knowledge about human nature that the other characters in the novel do not. Khaled Hosseini wrote in her facial scarring to create a character that was not only physically unique, but a character who was somewhat all-knowing about the other characters and her environment. could explain some of the oner character's behavior.
A motif throughout And the Mountains Echoed is disease. Almost every single one of the characters in the novel has been affected by disease in some way. Most of the diseases in And the Mountains Echoed follow the rules for what makes a literary disease. These rules are in the book How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. A disease must follow these guidelines in order to be called a "literary disease":
A. Abdullah- Alzheimer's Disease
B. Pari- Rheumatoid Arthritis
In Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed feathers are a connecting factor throughout the book. At the beginning of the book, it is said that Pari loves feathers and has a collection of them. They are her most prized possession. But when Pari is sold to the childless Wahdati couple, she has to leave her collection of feathers behind in Shadbagh. Pari is finally reunited with her feathers in Paris, when Adbullah's daughter, who is also named Pari, gives them to her on behalf of her brother. Pari is unable to remember what the feathers meaning is, and this made me wonder: What do the feathers represent? While feathers may represent different things in different cultures they have several universal meanings:
1. Truth- (Noun), the state or character of being true- In And the Mountains Echoed Pari suspects for much of her adult life that she is not the biological daughter of Nila Wahdati. She sets out on a quest for the truth: the truth about whose family she belonged to, and the truth about how she ended up being adopted by the Wahdatis. When her journey to the truth is finally complete, she knows that she is the daughter of Saboor, and the sister of Abdullah. She reunites with her niece, Pari and is given a feather. This feather represents the truth that Pari worked so hard to find.
2. Innocence- (Noun), the lack of knowledge or understanding- Pari is only three years old when she starts to collect feathers. Three is a very innocent age. At three years old, children are unable to understand many things about life. Pari does not understand why her father sells her to the Wahdatis. When she receives the feathers at the end of the book, her innocence, or lack of knowledge about her early life, is taken away because she finally learns what happened to her.
3. Renewal- (Noun), the act of renewing- At the time or her receiving of the feathers, Pari feels disconnected from her real family. These people are strangers to her, they don't even speak her first language, and they know things about her past that she doesn't. When her niece gives her the feathers, Pari renewed. She can start over with a new family and gain new experiences and relationships.