There was a time when you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone reading The Kite Runner - on a train, in an airport departure lounge, in the park, on the beach...
It was one of those books that for a few months everyone had beside their bed (like The Help or Gone Girl or even the dreaded Fifty Shades of Grey).
Author Khaled Hosseini’s third book. And The Mountains Echoed, has by contrast attracted much less attention – but I think it’s even better than his celebrated debut novel and that’s from someone who has bored my friends (and total strangers) about how much I loved The Kite Runner.
Set again in the author’s native Afghanistan (and in part on the west coast of the United States, where Hosseini now calls home), this book deals with many of the same issues as his first two books in particular with regard to family, loss and loyalty against a backdrop of half a century of Afghan history.
The opening chapter introduces the event that is the centrepiece of the book as a father tells his children the story of Baba Ayub, a poor farmer forced to give up his youngest son to a div (a monster) or lose his whole family.
Years later and still devastated at the loss of his favourite son, Baba Ayub sets off across the mountains to the monster’s lair to ask for his son’s return. But once there the div shows him his son playing with other children in the most beautiful garden, happy, well-fed and with access to a life he would never have had as a poor farmer’s son in a drought-hit village.
“I will give you your son back if you want,” says the div, “but he can never come back here. Or you leave without him and you can never return...”
Heartbreakingly sad at times but also life-affirming, this is a book that you’ll love – as will everyone in your train carriage, airport departure lounge, park, beach...
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