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Literature / And the Mountains Echoed

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"So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just the one. Don't either of you ask me for more..."

"I found a sad little fairy
Beneath the shade of a paper tree.
I know a sad little fairy
Who was blown away by the wind one night."

And the Mountains Echoed is the third novel by Khaled Hosseini, released in 2013. Like his previous novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini describes how Afghanis or Afghani-Americans deal with the tumultuous events in Afghanistan. The book, rather than emphasizing the monstrosities committed by the Taliban, focuses instead on how the elite who either live in or outside of Afghanistan betray the poor and how love can ultimately conquer all (at a great price).

The story begins with Saboor, a villager from the fictional village of Shadbagh, who travels with his adolescent son Abdullah and infant daughter Pari to Kabul. Saboor must sell his infant daughter to the employer of his brother-in-law Nabi. Abdullah, who loves his sister very much, is horrified to be forced to leave her behind. He grows up and moves to the United States while his sister moves to Paris with her adoptive mother, Nila, who claims that she is her real mother. Abdullah and Pari eventually reunite at the end of the book, but the circumstances of their reunion are ultimately fraught with debilitating loss. Many characters with complicated, layered stories are developed throughout the course of the novel; in each chapter, every character must reconcile his or her own grief and find love from those closest to them.


Hosseini, in seven separate chapters, ends up telling the story from the perspective of seven different characters and their affiliates, who are all somehow interconnected. He displays how each character grows and develops through the course of the events they experience. He touches on the various ways love manifests itself through sibling relationships, and how power corrupts and impedes one's ability to form meaningful relationships.


And the Tropes Echoed:

  • The Alcoholic: Nila, who drinks heavily and is mentioned to be a regular at the emergency room for alcohol-induced minor accidents.
  • Anachronic Order: The first few chapters jump between various time periods, but the story eventually evens out into chronological order.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted. Nila apparently bought/adopted Pari with the intent of fixing holes in her personal life. While it does work for a while on the surface level — her relationship with her husband (who also adores Pari) improves and Nila does her best to care for the girl — it doesn't work in the long run, as Nila admits.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Abdullah was both brother and parental figure to Pari when they were young children.
  • Big Brother Worship: As children, Pari adored Abdullah, who in turn exhibited Big Brother Instinct towards her.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Each chapter has one.
    • Abdullah watches his sister being given away, but learns to be independent from his father.
    • Parwana and Nabi must kill Masooma and Suleiman respectively, but in doing so, are able to carry on with their lives and leave their burdens behind.
    • Idris ultimately feels unfulfilled after volunteering in Afghanistan when a girl whom he helped, Roshi, favors his show-off brother Timur instead (who ended up betraying Roshi by promising to adopt her before abandoning her). However, he does learn to appreciate his own life better.
    • Pari is widowed and her (adoptive) mother commits suicide, but learns at the end of her chapter about her true story.
    • Adel realizes that his father is a war criminal instead of a virtuous man, but this revelation enables him to possibly address the issues even more clearly.
    • Markos returns from a world tour after helping many people, but feels disheartened and guilty when his mother is diagnosed with ALS.
    • The younger Pari sees her aunt and father finally unite, but Abdullah cannot remember his long-lost sister since he has Alzheimer's. Still, the family is finally at peace in the end.
  • The Beard: This is implied to be the reason Suleiman and Nila Wahdati got married — the former is gay.
  • Broken Pedestal: Adel, when he finds out the truth about his father.
  • The Caretaker: A recurring theme.
    • Parwana for her paraplegic twin sister Masooma. Parwana refuses to allow herself to complain about it since she's the one who caused the accident that crippled Masooma.
    • Nabi for Suleiman, after the latter suffers a stroke. Nabi eventually fires the rest of the household and becomes the latter's primary companion and caretaker well into their old age.
    • Thalia has become this for Markos's mother Odelia in the latter's old age, moreso after she is diagnosed with ALS.
    • Pari the younger, for her father Abdullah, after he gets Alzheimer's. It is mentioned that she gave up art school and a serious boyfriend in order to look after him, but eventually places him in a nursing home so she can move on with her life.
  • Childhood Friends:
    • Saboor had known Nabi and his sisters, Masooma and Parwana, since they were children.
    • Markos and Thalia, after the latter is abandoned with Markos and his mother, grow up together.
    • Pari and her school friend Colette, who keep in touch until they are adults. Colette is the one to introduce Pari's husband to her.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Initially, Parwana was the unlucky one to Saboor and Masooma was the lucky one, but after the accident that cripples Masooma, this is reversed, with Parwana eventually going on to marry Saboor herself.
  • Culture Clash: A reoccurring element regarding Afghan culture, both from foreigners who visit Afghanistan and Westernized Afghans (such as Idris) who have been away from their homeland for so long they feel as though they don't belong.
  • Dead Guy Junior: A downplayed example, as the original owner of the name isn't actually dead, but Abdullah named his only daughter after Pari.
  • Death by Childbirth: Abdullah and Pari's unnamed mother died giving birth to the latter.
  • Death of a Child: Parwana and Saboor's first child, Omar, dies when he is two weeks old, and Nabi mentions that in the villages, cold takes the lives of a few infants every year.
  • Dead Man Writing: Nabi's letter to Markos is the standard 'If you are reading this, I am already dead' variant.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: One chapter recounts the story of little girl named Roshi who was horrifically maimed by her uncle and was forced to watch him murder her entire family. What drove her uncle to such an act? He was mad at his brother for inheriting their father's property because he felt as though he deserved it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Nila kills herself when Pari is an adult.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Adel's father may be a war criminal who continues to intimidate and oppress people, but he seems to genuinely love Adel.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Nila and her sexual poetry. Pari tries to emulate her mother by trying to be as sexy and into haute culture, but it doesn't really work for her.
  • Foreshadowing: The novel opens with the story of a man who was forced to sacrifice his son to a monster known as the Div in order to save the rest of his family, although it destroys him to do so. He eventually tracks down the Div to get revenge, only to discover that it has actually provided the stolen children with a bounty of food, a beautiful home, and an education, which is far more than they could had ever hoped for had they stayed with their families. The Div gives the man the opportunity to take his son home, but the man, realizing that his son could never hope to have such a blessed life if they returned to their village, decides to leave his son behind, much to his anguish. To honor the man's selflessness, the Div gives him a potion that completely erases all memories of his son so that he will not have to live with the agony of knowing he can't be with him again, even though he was given the chance to. At the very end of the novel, we discover that Abdullah, who had spent his entire life mourning and yearning for the sister he lost, now has Alzheimer's and can no longer remember or recognize her.
  • Generational Saga: While not all the point of view characters are related, the novel spans some fifty years following Abdullah and Pari's separation and focuses on characters from their parents' generation, their generation, and their children's.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry:
    • Masooma (pretty) and her twin sister Parwana (smart). Parwana resented Masooma for her beauty and the fact that she was to marry Saboor, which had life-altering consequences.
    • Despite being a male pair of cousins, this applies to Idris (a serious, awkward doctor) and Timur (a charming, gregarious self-made businessman), who were raised as brothers. Idris judges Timur's blatant efforts to make himself look good and resents him for his personality. Despite this, they are not so different.
  • Gratuitous French: The half-French Nila and her adopted daughter Pari (who was raised in France) occasionally sprinkle French phrases into the dialogue.
  • Happily Adopted: Played with. While Pari's adoption by the Wahdahtis certainly gave her access to a more privileged life than she would have had otherwise, it came at the cost of Pari's relationship with Abdullah, and Nila herself was not what one would call a good mother.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Roshi. Deconstructed, as while her story of being a tragic orphan recovering from a serious head injury in the postwar period is definitely moving, it is also turned into mass consumption for foreigners who cannot truly understand what she has gone through or offer meaningful help.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mr. Wahdati and Nabi, which is ironic, given that Mr. Wahdati is homosexual and in love with Nabi - yet makes no advances toward Nabi throughout the fifty years during which they work with one another. The only time they are ever physical with each other is when Nabi kisses Mr. Wahdati for the first and last time when the latter is about to die in assisted suicide.
  • Hope Spot: After Pari discovers the truth about her parentage, she manages to get in contact with Abdullah's daughter, also named Pari, and the reunion that's been built up the entire book is tragically meaningless to Abdullah, who has Alzheimer's and can no longer remember he ever had a sister.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: How Saboor feels about selling Pari, his own daughter. His family was severely impoverished and he desperately needed money to provide for them. Selling Pari, as he put it, was like cutting off a finger to save the hand. That doesn't make Abdullah any more forgiving, however.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Mr. Wahdati is in love with Nabi, who loves him too - but not that way.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: A variation - Adel knows the truth about how his father married his mother, but due to his innocence, he doesn't realize how horrifying it is. Also he doesn't get at first the several hints that Gholman throws at him that his father is a war criminal and a drug lord.
  • Intimate Artistry: Nabi discovers Suleiman's many drawings of him throughout the years, confirming that the latter was in love with him.
  • It's All About Me: Both Nila and Madeline (Thalia's mom) make negligent mothers because they're far too self-centered to let the spotlight be on their children. Nila in particular actually seems resentful of Pari for "stealing" her attention.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Timur, who through Idris' P.O.V. is mostly seen as boorish showoff,and not unreasonably. But in the end it's him and not Idris' that sticks with Roshi helping her and get recognition for it.
    • Gholman, Iqbal's son. He acts a bit antagonistically towards Adel but eventually befriends him and acknowledges that it's not his fault having the father he has.
  • Karma Houdini: Adel's father never has to answer for his crimes. Nabi never really pays for orchestrating the sale of Pari, either.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Nila, who cannot keep her respected position in Afghan society due to her inability to produce children. On the other hand, it's implied that Pari had her first child Isabelle by accident.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Hosseini's other works. Not that that's saying much.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A nine-chapter Generational Saga starring several interconnected point-of-view characters, each with their own families and social circles.
  • Lonely Rich Kid:
    • Thalia was the daughter of a somewhat famous thespian and heiress to a wealthy man, but was lonely in her childhood because of her deformity.
    • Adel, who lives in a luxurious compound but has no friends or companions besides his mother and his father's employees.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Pari's first boyfriend, Julien, had a relationship with Nila before moving in with her.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Suleiman loves Nabi, who loves Nila, who is married to Suleiman. A mixture of Incompatible Orientation and Nila's single-minded self-interest ensure that it doesn't really end happily for anyone.
    • Also, Pari develops an attraction to one of her mother's boyfriends, Julien, and dates him after they break up. She later comes to view it as a factor in her mother's suicide.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Adel's father is this to the townspeople. He frequently portrays himself to the media as a good-hearted person, when he is, in reality, the furthest thing from it.
  • Mercy Kill: Parwana does this to the paraplegic Masooma, and Nabi does this to the paraplegic Mr. Wahdati.
  • Motif: The relationship between siblings (or even friends close enough to be considered siblings) is frequently examined throughout the book.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Parwana attempts this on Masooma after learning that Saboor has asked Masooma to marry him. Masooma survives her fall but becomes permanently disabled, and Parwana is forced to care for her.
  • No Antagonist: There is no villain or evil force that the protagonists have to battle against. The story is simply about two siblings who were separated at a young age and how it affected them and the people around them.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Pari is unaware that the Wahdatis are not her biological parents. She starts to suspect it around the time of Nila's suicide, and it is confirmed after Nabi's death.
  • One Degree of Separation: Seriously, what are the odds? Abdullah's sister Pari is sold to the Wahdatis, their step-uncle Nabi's wealthy employers. Markos happens to be a good friend of Nabi's, and helps him pass on the letter to Pari informing her of her true parenthood. Idris and Timur grew up as Nabi's neighbors, move to the same city in the United States as Abdullah (the former is even Abdullah's family's doctor), and end up meeting Nabi again when they return. Adel becomes friends with Gholam, who is the son of Abdullah's half-brother Iqbal, and Adel's father owns the same ancestral plot of land as Abdullah and Iqbal did, and... Yeah, it's confusing.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Abdullah names his daughter Pari after his sister, who is still alive.
  • Opportunistic Bastard:
    • Timur lives in excess and flirts with virtually every girl he can get his hands on. He is in Afghanistan for the sole purpose of buying back his family's land, and treats the relief effort as a way to self-aggrandize. He even buys his cousin Idris a car, not out of the goodness of his heart, but to show everybody how good of a person he is.
    • Adel's father, who is a wealthy war criminal. While he brings the pretense that he's helping Afghan society, he in fact gentrifies Shadbagh and imprisons the poor dissidents.
  • Parental Abandonment: Thalia's mother abandons her with Markos and his family when she is a child.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Markos and Thalia, who were raised together since childhood and maintain close contact despite Markos's travels, to the point that Thalia splits her considerable inheritance with him. It helps that she's a frequent companion of his mother. While both of them remain unmarried, it's mentioned that Markos feels guilty about the fact that he never fell in love with Thalia due to her disability.
  • Promotion to Parent: Abdullah ended up becoming Pari's primary caretaker after their mother passed away, which may have contributed to the unusually close bond between them that Nabi comments on.
  • Really Gets Around: Nila had quite a few casual liaisons and wasn't subtle about it, which led to her being slut-shamed.
  • Settle for Sibling: Of a sort. Saboor was originally going to marry Parwana's sister Masooma, but married Parwana after Masooma passed away. How he ends up feeling about her isn't really explored, although they ended up having two chlidren together (one of whom died in infancy).
  • Shout-Out: It is not mentioned by name, but Abdullah and his family are watching Slumdog Millionaire near the end, since Abdullah has to be reminded of the characters (Latika, the girl from the slums who had trouble on the train, and Jamal, a boy currently on a game show).
  • Sibling Triangle: Masooma and Parwana were both in love with Saboor when they were young, but Masooma’s accident took her out of the running, and Parwana was the one to eventually marry him after his first wife’s death.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Nabi is said to be very good looking, especially to Mr. Wahdati, who finds him beautiful.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nila's account of her life given to a literary magazine. The reader can see a lot of places where her version of the truth is not accurate; Pari is not privy to as many of these but still gets the sense that a lot of what her mother said was falsified.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Adel's father presents himself as a generous man who develops New Shadbagh and even build a female school, but he is actually a war criminal and drug lord.
  • Villainous Gentrification: The development of New Shadbagh is at the cost of war crimes and the real, pre-war landowners being driven away and kept poor.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happens to Abdullah and Pari's half-brother Iqbal and his son, Gholman, despite Pari's search for them, is never clarified — although Pari and the reader can likely infer bad things.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Subverted by Parwana. Abdullah sees her as cruel due to her strictness toward both him and Pari (though he doesn't see it as malicious, more the result of the fact that he and Pari are another woman's children), and largely blames her after Pari is given away. However, Parwana's abrasiveness stems from her guilt after she caused a debilitating injury to her elder sister.


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