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The still, sad music of humanity

George_and_Laura_Bush_with_Khaled_Hosseini_in_2007_detail2Khaled Hosseini’s third book is not only about Afghanistan itself, but also more generally about those who are outcasts, rootless, and without home, except possibly for the home of the yearning heart.

Hosseini begins with the story of an Afghan family in 1952, and then deftly weaves a pattern, going both backwards and forwards in time, which connects together disparate lives.

At  the beginning of the book a little boy, Abdullah, and his sister, Pari, are told a folk tale by their father, which stands as signal and metaphor for their life journey, as laid out, in an unfolding journey in this globally set novel – the world, almost, as village

One sentence, very late on in the book, came to symbolise for me much of this beautifully written book, which inhabits a place of compassionate resignation and unrealised dreams:

I learned that the world didn’t see the inside of you, that it didn’t care a whit about the hopes and dreams, and sorrows, that lay masked by skin and bone

This was the realisation come to by one of the peripheral characters, who becomes a And the Mountains Echoedplastic surgeon, creating new faces,  for those who have been damaged and injured

But all of the complex, tenderly written characters within this book are wearers of masks. Some masks are given to wearers by the society in which they grow, and the identity they adapt to fit in or to rebel against, and then there are the masks to hide the hopes the dreams and the sorrows which we choose to wear

Like Abdullah and Pari’s father, whose telling of a deep tale opens the book, Hosseini is at heart a story teller. And like the best story tellers, the tale and the telling are about much more than mere narration.

Hosseini chooses to start the book with a famous quote by the thirteenth century mystic poet Rumi, which rather potently encapsulates the connected humanity his novel is about

Out beyond ideas
Of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field
I’ll meet you there

I received this as an ARC from the Amazon Vine programme. And once again was urged to read this by fellow blogger Fiction Fan – see her review

And the Mountains Echoed Amazon UK
And the Mountains Echoed Amazon USA