A young Liberian woman, Jacqueline, who has escaped the civil war to Greece, is on her own in a strange new place. No food, no home, no money, she is forced to make her way on an island where it is not certain if she will be greeted with pity and hospitality or by suspicion or even harm. To escape the haunting memories of what she left behind, Jacqueline focuses instead on her most basic and sensory needs: protection from the sun, water, a bath, enough food to make it through the day, and dignity. But it is these solely physical feelings that drag her back through the vivid nightmare of what she is trying to forget, each relief from an ailment bringing flashbacks of sensory equivalence from home. Her companion when she needs it the least, is her mother’s nagging voice in her head, or is it exactly what she needed to hear to keep her in check? Jacqueline’s story is one that brings to question whether it is better to strive to forget what has hurt us with a blissful facade or to confront them head on and tackle them with all our consciousness.
I found Maksik’s novel quite simple to read. You’re never confused as to where she is in time or place and the prose is not strewn out, but rather choppy. It does follow her conscious thoughts with very little dialogue with the occasional banter with her mother’s voice inside her head, but who doesn’t have that going on. The story, although not a light one does have a satisfactory ending that left me content. I found Jacqueline to be a strong female protagonist that although we don’t see her rise out of the ashes like a phoenix, she certainly prevailed by leaving safely from a doomed fate. I didn’t love it but I certainly didn’t hate it. I thought it was a good read and for some reason I keep picking up stories about refugees or people who have escaped from civil unrest, which I find enlightening. I enjoy books that transport me into different cultures. Is that not one of the joys of reading: To experience countries and cultures without actually leaving our homes?
Has anyone else had the chance to read A Marker to Measure Drift? Any thoughts? (Goodreads link through the title if you would like to read another synopsis and/or reviews)
Oh Khaled Hosseini! How your words both move me to go see the places so dense with history and warn me of why I shouldn’t. And the Mountains Echoed is a beautiful paradox composed of the tenderest emotions shared between family and confidants and the harsh reality of a war torn country and what it reduces it’s inhabitants to. In a expansive web of characters spanning the US, Europe and the middle East, Hosseini weaves together generations of life-altering decisions that all culminate in coming face to face with the truths that have been kept from them.
This is definitely one of Hosseini’s lighter books, especially after reading A Thousand Splendid Suns (which I balled through the entirety of) because it touches on softer emotions like the love between brother and sister, the devotion of a daughter to her ailing father, and the kindness of a foreign doctor. What I loved about these characters is that their struggles were actually approachable for someone with “first-world problems”. And their struggles weren’t viewed as flaws but instead as what makes them the strong, if not stubborn, individuals that they are. I am a big fan of this whole trend in literature where stories cross generations and come to a satisfying ending which is what I got from And the Mountains Echoed. No, it wasn’t exactly a happy ending but I think that all the pieces fell into place neatly and no story was wasted or used as filler. And to be fair, it was a bittersweet ending. My personal favorite character was the Greek doctor Markos and his story of growing up in Greece and what led him to Afghanistan.
Everyone in the story has a family story clouded by poor judgement and each chapter delves deeper and deeper into how far the consequences of those poor judgement reach. I enjoyed reading this book and I recommend reading it.
Has anyone else read And the Mountains Echoed or any other of Hosseini’s books?
Hello fellow book worms, it’s time for another Book Review. I recently read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, so lets take a peek at it.
The story follows the life of a boy named Gogol. Gogol’s parents are from India, living in the United States while his dad is in grad school and then later works for the university. His name Gogol was not supposed to be his real name but as he grows up in a westernized world with trips to his parent’s hometown in India he struggles to find identity as Gogol. You can find out more here at Goodreads (current website/app obsession).
You will enjoy the prose of this book if you choose to read it. It is very well written but I had a hard time connecting with most of the characters that I didn’t get all that much out of it at first. There was little insight from his parent’s view about their emotional depth of being so far from home and then being reunited with their families and a very shallow perception of Gogol’s identity crisis basically as he battles with which name to identify with, what culture to relate to and so on. And very little character development outside of Gogol. It wasn’t until after discussing the book at
wine club er book club that I began to realize that maybe we are supposed to view it from a distance because that’s how we, in general, view other cultures and their significance on certain things, like names. The more I think about the structure of the book the more I begin to grasp it. It was a bit of a frustrating read but picking it apart helps. I recommend giving it a shot. If anything then you got to read lovely writing a glimpse into another culture so maybe you learned something?
Has anyone else read The Namesake and have any commentary to add?
You can read my other book reviews on Girls in White Dresses and Little Bee here.