Khaled Hosseini is a storyteller. His latest novel makes ordinary stories rise above their monotony and become something true; they own themselves when heard through various people, different perspectives.
The book tracks the lives of Pari and Abdullah through a heartbreaking childhood in 1950s Afghanistan, torn from each other to lead bifurcating existences on different continents. We finally see them reunited at the end of the book, after having been led into the lives of para-relatives and friends and their own individual stories. The strength of the book lies in its lyrical prose interspersed with Afghani folklore. We see Afghanistan as it once was, war-free and open and liberal. We also encounter the Taliban, albeit fleetingly.
A common thread of unshaken guilt, unexpressed remorse and unadorned truth of feelings weaves through the entire novel. The twin feelings of guilt and shame that I reckon all of us expats feel when visiting our origin countries struck home. This emotion is most often expressed as apathy — Hosseini is not afraid to confront it head-on. The perspectives of women aren’t tacky either.
The best part for me, however, was the Afghani folk story the novel begins with. Such poignancy is seldom encountered in a story retold. I read it aloud to V today, on a grey afternoon that begs for a good story to be told snuggled in a warm blanket. We both got a bit teary-eyed, him with the story, me with the idea of our days of such intimacy being short-lived.
The library lent it on a non-renewable, 14-day loan. I’m done in a sporadic-reading 3. It’s that good.