And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
(Penguin Audio, 2013)
Format: audio CDs via library (read by Khaled Hosseini, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Navid Negahban)
From Goodreads: "Khaled Hosseini has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations.
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page."
Okay, first - well, no: first, read this, it's lovely. But second - don't get the audio. Sigh. Hosseini does a perfectly respectable job with his part of the narration, but the other two narrators - Negahaban in particular - seemed too often to be reading words instead of sentences, much less paragraphs or chapters. Emphases oddly placed, little emotional connection. I was bummed.
However! The story itself is a deep reflection on families and love, with a plethora of characters who are by turns tender and frustrating. And they feel both tender towards and frustrated by the ties that bind them to each other. War, illness, heartbreak, and poverty lead to both uplifting and devastating moments within these families. More run-of-the-mill moments produce baseness and kindness, according to the characters' true nature, but no one is devoid of tenderness. Hosseini's creations are kaleidoscopic.
I was confounded by a couple of his writerly choices. A letter which serves as a chapter-long info-dump ("As you know....") and the disappearance from the novel of the story-telling father were both misses for me. But I was still crying at the end, so, clearly this worked for me on many levels.