- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (May 21, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 159463176X
- Source: Publisher
In a rural village in Afghanistan in the 1940s, a father tells his two young children, a boy and a girl, a folk story. The essence of the story revolves around family, sacrifice, and they steps a parent will take to save and protect those they love. The very next day this man, a poor farmer, is forced to sell his three-year-old daughter to a wealthy family with the promise that she will lead a far better life than the one she has now. The woman who adopts this young girl is struggling to fill a void in her marriage, an absence that no amount of wealth will ever fill.
So begins an epic saga centered around this concept of sacrifice for the sake of love. Spanning decades of time from the 1940s to modern times, each of the characters suffer some sort of loss and spend the rest of their life trying to understand, come to terms with, and regain what is missing in their lives.
I am intentionally vague in my synopsis for the beauty of this novel is the discovery and unveiling of each of these characters and the stories they are destined to share. Additionally, there is no way that I may ever come close to fully describing just how monumental, powerful, and awe-inspiring this novel is. I’ve read it three times since receiving it last month. Once for a blurb I was writing and the other two times because I just couldn’t shed the attachment I had to Hosseini’s writing and characters.
Originally, this review was scheduled to post last week. I was devastated to learn that not only did it not post, but all remnants of the review were missing. I was heartbroken, almost more than when I turned the last pages. Yet, when I read this book for a third time, I saw the loss of my additional review as a sign. In that review, I went into a lot of detail with the synopsis rather than focusing on how much this novel moved me. I saw it as a sign and encouragement to replicate what Hosseini does best: to tell a story about how much this novel impacted me. Countless other reviews of this title are popping up hourly, why add to what has already been done? Rather than focus on what transpired, I needed to instead detail how this novel has changed me.
I don’t need to prove this author’s talent and integrity to you; he himself has done this countless times before. What is truly made apparent in this novel, however, is his expert talent as a storyteller. There is beauty in every word he writes, his love for Afganistan and its culture shining through. I found myself reading passages over and over again, reliving the stories and sagas and characters this author brought to life. One of the characters reflects upon storytelling, describing how it brings him closer to his father, strengthens their connection:
Father never felt more present to Abdullah, more vibrant, revealed, more truthful, than when he told his stories, as though the tales were pinholes into his opaque, inscrutable world.
I think this statement rings true for many of us. When our parents tell us stories as children, stories that we pass down onto our own, we are opening up a part of our souls that we often guard and keep hidden. The same goes for authors; with each book they write they allow readers to get a bigger snapshot of their soul, their loves and passions and fears. So, to me, this novel wasn’t simply a story following the lives of characters and their path to their own self-discovery, but a gateway for me to do the same myself. Long ago, my boys stopped asking me to tell them a story, instead opting to pull a book off a shelf. This book has inspired me to return to this, to cultivate a tradition of passing stories down to my children so that they may do so themselves. In return, I am giving them a gift of a part of me that they will never forget, a part of my life they will cherish long after I have passed. A gift that their children in turn can tell to their children, creating and nurturing a tradition that has been absent in our lives.
While this isn’t your typical review in any way, shape, or form, I do still implore you, dare I say beg you, to pick up this novel and embrace it. My only hope is that it will move you like it did me, force you to reflect on your own life and the traditions you keep. Highly, highly recommended.