And The Mountains Echoed is a novel by Khaled Hosseini and like his previous novels, the central story focuses on the non-romantic love between family members. The central story is about Abdullah and Pari, their separation and reunion after almost sixty years.
The story starts with the story of Baba Ayub which acts as a foreshadowing element for Abdullah and Pari’s story. The story plants the seed of the question on the role of memory- whether the memory of an estranged beloved person a boon or bane. The story of Baba Ayub also helps in describing the character of Saboor as a person with animated tales as this is his last story in the novel and it is difficult to associate him as a storyteller otherwise. The journey of Saboor and kids is also punctuated with a question if a parent would abandon his children. It is possible that abandoning of children due to severe poverty is common or even understandable during this time, given Masooma’s wish to commit suicide in the desert. Saboor’s decision to walk to Kabul is questioned by Abdullah and Nabi and presents his character as a self-respecting man for whom trade of children is abhorrent. It is through some divine intervention that Abdullah comes to realize the whole deal. However, he is unable to do anything. Partly, because of his father’s submission on the matter and partly as he realizes the good it would do to Pari. As Abdullah is more or less the parent Pari has, he is more vocal about the whole act. The whole village submit to the act as a means to avoid a despicable life for their children, which also hints towards the high frequency of selling the children, stays silent on the matter. Abdullah, however, finds it displeasing and see it as an act of deception. He preserves the last relic of Pari: the tin box of feathers.
The story hereafter is told through the point of view of multiple persons who connect due to the circumstance of war and thus play a role in the story, while their backstory branches on the central one along a similar theme.The narrative used in the books employs several modes. Some narratives use the more personal first person, while others use the observant but less intimate third form. Nabi’s story is told through a letter that he had written for Markos, and parts of Nila and Pari’s story is told through an interview Nila gave before her suicide. The novel employs multiple methods and thus, adds to the element of diversity in the story.
Nabi, to escape being in care of an invalid sister, leaves for Kabul. He covers his original feeling with a wish to be the bread-winner of the family. Nabi’s ambitions, however, are limited to being a chauffeur to Wahdatis. He falls in love with beauty and personality of Nila. Nila, however, is a confused soul who can’t seem to get the respite she wants. She is considered to be a promiscuous woman by many and on occasion Nabi sees the proof and has to play a part in it. However, instead of being revolted he understands her solitude for being with a man unlike her. He decides to get her a child when he comes to know of Nila’s infertility. This is of somewhat importance, that Nabi can’t seem to overstep his boundaries as a servant. The only physical touch he has with her involves holding of hands while she is crying while his passion urges him to adorn her with kisses. He wants her to have a complete life with no compromise to her character or his duty. Similarity. He is unable to desert Mr. Wahdati when he is paralyzed or when he discovers Wahdati to be a homosexual in love with him. He is not repulsed but is uneasy with the notion. What is noteworthy is his feelings about Suleiman and Nila. Both of them are misfits in their environment, yet he easily accepts Nila while it takes him some time get used to Suleiman’s fascination with him. His sexuality doesn’t change with his acceptance of Suleiman’s sexuality.
Nila’s neediness grows with time. Nila is not a character with a POV and so is described through the eyes of others, so her representation keeps on changing. However, one thing that is certain is her inclination to shock and grab attention. Nila thrives for attention and, Pari feels at several times, is jealous of Pari’s growing freedom and independence, which is ironic considering Nila’s wish against Pari from being in an environment where she won’t be free. Pari’s adolescent and adult years are constantly filled with worry and anxiety for her mother. This repeated motif of children worrying over parents, anxious to take care of them, with a feeling of being tied down, followed by guilt. Pari’s journey from girlhood to being an old woman is as unremarkable as it would be. She works, takes care of her family, is allied with common health issues- which can be easily related to. This is just to define her life as an ordinary person, thus essentially the novel is the extraordinary story of an ordinary person.
Markos suffers from same feelings concerning his mother Odelia, but a major part of this is derived from her strictness and limitedness of the island where they lived. He lives his life as a vagabond when he finally gets the chance. His association with Thalia is of a friendship that has stood the test of times. Their friendship is a result of their shared curiosity, but while Markos wants to explore around, Thalia though interested in same is apprehensive about it, which is a result of her deformity. A sharp contrast occurs is presented between Markos and Thalia. While Markos is easily deceived by looks, Thalia is more observant. Markos yearns to go beyond the island, Thalia wants to stay only there, and denies the opportunity of private education, even though she has a high aptitude for this. Markos, decides to work in medicine, but only after he had had a similar experience and can understand pain and suffering. It is only after his close brush with death and disease, he decides to use his aptitude and opportunity.
Idris and Adel are two characters who do not directly progress the story. They form details of life outside Abdullah and Pari’s story. It is quite coincidental that Idris has known both Pari and Abdullah. However, as part of cruel fate, he remains secondary to both timelines. Idris shares the viewpoint of the civilized world towards the situation in Afghanistan, while Adel shows the plight of people after the war is over. Both of their stories are laden with a feeling of helplessness that comes out from being in privilege. But, while Adel is too young to take any action, Idris is overwhelmed by his life and his inaction comes from being too comfortable.
In the last chapter, when the siblings finally meet, it is quite ironical that Abdullah can’t be told that Pari is his little sister. Even when she tells him so, he can’t accept her as the figure of a young girl. It’s as if he has idolized her image as a young girl and can’t comprehend the idea of his sister as a grown woman. In same manner, when Pari is presented with the tin box of feathers, she can’t comprehend its meaning as she can’t remember much of her childhood. Her namesake, Abdullah’s daughter is the one who presents the point of view at this point and the whole story is shared from her perspective. She is distraught and helpless for Abdullah’s situation as he is an Alzheimer’s patient now. However, she knows about his longing for his sister and helps Pari deal with the situation. The story of Baba Ayub foreshadows to this point. In the end, she performs the same ritual her father performed, of metaphorically grasping good dream out of thin air and feeding them to her mind, on Pari hoping that in Pari’s dreams the two might meet.