And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I try to get into the habit of reviewing a bunch of books once in a while. However, some books like this really deserves one whole blog post on it. Briefly, it is a story about kinship, sacrifice and love and how different lives are intertwined by family ties. What I like about “And the Mountains Echoed” is how the characters in the background become the “main characters” in a subsequent chapter. It is so easy to judge the characters when little are written about them based on our stereotypes of how such characters tend to be depicted by other authors/ film-makers (e.g. the selfish stepmother, the mean stepuncle). However, when the focus is on them subsequently, I actually feel bad for judging their characters too early. I guess the lesson that I learn here is that everyone has a story to tell so don’t judge solely based on perception. I certainly didn’t expect to learn lessons about life through the process of reading a book!

The different point of views that Hosseini offered in this book also make me reflect on my own relationships with my family members. Am I judging them too harshly for what they cannot be? Am I taking my sanctuary, my routine for granted? Am I loving them enough today?

“I remember how, as a boy, I would stew over all the things that Mama wouldn’t do, things other mothers did…But, all those years, I’d been blinded to a greater truth, which lay unacknowledged unappreciated, buried deep beneath my grievances.”

As the title of the book says, so many different parts of the book echo with my own experiences growing up in an Asian family. I remember reading somewhere that in Asia, you are not born as an individual but into a family. As an individual, I love to gain new experiences, I love to travel, I love to express my opinions. But as a member of a family, more often than not, I need to weigh my wants with my family’s needs (however unreasonable it might be at times). I need to hold back my desires to see the world and I need to keep my mouth shut even though sometimes I find that it is unfair to myself to hold back those words. Essentially, I feel that I am born with a role (filial to my parents, grandparents, supporting my sibling, cousins) and sometimes this role is in conflict with my own aspirations.

“It was that kind of love that, sooner or later, cornered you into a choice: either you tore free or you stayed and withstood its rigour even as it squeezed you into something smaller than yourself.”

Overall, so many paragraphs made my heart wrench, it will take me more than an evening to copy every great paragraph here. I am not sure if I am alone in this but reading his books, this book in particular, makes me very sad. Something that matters a lot to a person (e.g. the feathers to Abbullah) progressively loses its meaning when he loses his memory. I look at my own prized possessions and I wonder for whom and why did I work so hard for them. Rationally, I don’t believe in leaving legacies but deep down inside, I am afraid that my life would be forgotten and would seem meaningless to subsequent generations. I guess, self-centred as we are, it is tough to concede that our lives are very insignificant in this vast universe.

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