In “And the Mountains Echoed,” Hosseini tells the story of Abdullah and Pari, a brother and sister wrenched apart when Pari is sold by their impoverished father to a wealthy family. Pari means “fairy” in Farsi. In later years, she will recall the words of a Farsi song: “I know a sad little fairy / Who was blown away by the wind one night.”
Pari grows up abroad in wealth and privilege, becoming a college professor; Abdullah must eventually flee war-
ravaged Afghanistan for the United States, where he opens Abe’s Kabob House in California.
(AP/AP) - This book cover image released by Riverhead Books shows “And the Mountains Echoed,” by Khaled Hosseini. (AP Photo/Riverhead Books)
Memory keeps alive the sister he lost. He even gives his daughter the same name. The daughter constructs an imaginary sister for herself from the scraps of her father’s memories.
“I saw her in the bathroom mirror when we brushed our teeth side-by-side,” Abdullah’s daughter muses. “I took her with me to the playground at recess, feeling her presence behind me when I whooshed down a slide.”
Abdullah’s daughter forms a deep friendship with a neighbor boy who becomes a Marine. He returns from the war in Afghanistan in a wheelchair after being hit by a roadside bomb. She wonders whether she should apologize to him because he was hurt in her father’s homeland.
Last month, Hosseini went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He met young men who, much like Pari’s friend, came back from Afghanistan in wheelchairs. They were still boys, really, but boys with an arm or leg torn off.
He felt a tug. A human impulse. Like Pari, he wondered whether he should apologize. But he wasn’t sure. It’s not as if he represented Afghanistan in some official way. But still there was that pull, that desire to make amends for what happened in the place of his birth, the place from which he’d been severed, not because his family was impoverished, but because his family was exiled.
He resisted the impulse, but he kept turning it over in his mind, sifting through the reasoning.
“I know it makes no sense,” he says, almost as if he’s talking to himself there in the hidden corner of the Madison lobby. “I know it’s not rational.”