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Khaled Hosseini's New Book Was Worth the Wait
Jenna Polito | Photo: Jenna Polito | May 21, 2013
Local booksellers are head over heels for "And the Mountains Echoed," the San Jose literary giant's latest novel
And the Mountains Echoed, the newest novel from author Khaled Hosseini, debuts in bookstores throughout the Bay Area today. It is the author’s first novel in six years, following his two previous bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Spanning three continents and more than 50 years, the novel begins with a seemingly small moment, a bedtime story told in a rural village in Afghanistan. A brother and sister listen as their father recounts a tale from the days when “divs and jinns and giants roamed the land.” The story of another father’s sacrifice bears more relation to their future than anyone realizes.
And the Mountains Echoed traces the saga of this soon-to-be fractured family as it navigates the repercussions of their patriarch's fateful decision in 1952. The narratives jump from the daughter of a poet in Paris in the 1970s, to the decades-long friendship between a chauffeur and his employer in Kabul, and the Greek island of Tinos where a doctor visits his ailing mother and his best friend. “This is what storytelling should be,” says Elaine Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera. “Hosseini weaves the lives of these diverse characters into this beautiful tapestry, and in doing so takes us to these different parts of the world.”
That Hosseini fleshes out these radically different characters—artists, doctors, academics, people born into wealth and those who possess next to nothing—reflects his own wandering life. Hosseini was born in Kabul in the 1960s, but spent part of his childhood in Paris, where his father was employed with the Afghan Foreign Ministry. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, his family took political asylum in the United States, eventually moving to San Jose. Hosseini received a medical degree from UC San Diego and was practicing medicine when he began writing The Kite Runner in 2001. After a trip to Afghanistan in 2007 as a Goodwill Envoy for a U.N. refugee agency, Hosseini established the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
Though the constant turmoil in Afghanistan shakes every character in And the Mountains Echoed, Hosseini also touches on kinship and caretaking. “While much of it takes place in Afghanistan, it is much more about family roots, the secrets we keep from our families and the interconnectedness of our lives,” says Kira Ehrmann, assistant manager at the Copperfield’s Books in Sebastopol. “He will write these lines that are so simple and yet really make you pause and realize the universality of all of our pains.”
Despite the ambitiousness of his themes, Hosseini writes with careful restraint. “I find him very profound in that way,” Ehrmann says. “He’s not trying to be prophetic. He’s not trying to impart all this wisdom, and yet, he somehow does— through simple, direct, and heartfelt prose.”
And the Mountains Echoed is available in bookstores on May 21. Book Passage and Copperfield’s Books will be hosting events with Khaled Hosseini in June; visit khaledhosseini.com or the bookstores’ websites for more information.