Similar to his previous two works, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, And the Mountains Echoed is set in Hosseini’s birthplace of Afghanistan. Instead of focusing on one central character, this book contains smaller chapter-length vignettes of several individuals. The characters lives are intertwined, creating a sort of domino effect as the story progresses. These Mise-en-abîme are molded and enabled by the political turmoil of the last few decades in Afghanistan, yet they are not wholly about these events. Rather, they speak to the bonds and challenges of familial ties and the impact of personal choices
The novel opens with a father from a small village. He is brings his daughter to Kabul in order to sell her to a childless couple. By doing so he might gain enough money for his sons and wife to survive the winter. This story is told from the perspective of the eldest son from which the author moves on to tell the story from the perspectives of his stepmother, his uncle, who works for the wealthy family in Kabul, and eventually the sister herself. At the end, the story makes its way back around to the son. Through this, we are able to witness the full course of consequences spawned from the initial action.
One of these stories in particular provides a salient message. The sub-text is from the perspective of a doctor who returns with his cousin to present day Kabul in order to reclaim the family home. He meets a young girl in a hospital that has managed to survive a devastating head injury in which her brain has been left partially exposed. The doctor forms a strong bond with the girl, and promises her caregiver that he will convince his practice to pay for reconstructive surgery when he returns to the U.S. Upon his return, however, he is drawn back into the hubbub of his normal life and encounters obstacles obtaining the funding.
Hosseini helps the reader to understand what a gift it is to be able to aid and positively impact someone’s life. While there are many people in the world that need help, we are wired to feel and interact on an individual scale. It is often on this level that one can do the most good.
The important point that And the Mountains Echoed brings home is that if you are offered a door of opportunity to be of service, be sure to walk though.