Tuesday, February 11, 2014

And the Mountains Echoed

Our session today was well attended and also one of the shortest book discussions we've ever had.  We all liked the book, but the two who enjoyed it the most are Mary and Carolyn who had read it last year, then reread it for today.  The rest of us were floundering a bit with all the side stories.

I started the comments by reading those that Kareen emailed me:

I was disappointed in that he didn't develop more of his characters and some he didn't even need to include (Idris & Timur, perhaps Marcos and Thalia and others in that chapter). The latter two could have a book of their own. The book was really about Pari (the sister) more than anyone else it seems. She actually ended up better off for leaving her old village even though it broke Saboor and left Abdullah missing his best friend (only to forget her in the end because of Alzeimer's). Saboor had to support the family he had left, to prevent other children from dying in the winter, the stove for him was a necessary evil. The apple tree was cut down to supply the town with heating wood but also to signify the end of a family as he had known it...to destroy all those memories, both good and bad (depending on whose memory was part of the tree). Oh, then we have the tale of Parwana and Massoma....just a lot of hit and miss all over. It seems like there needed to be more focus for a story. The book just went all over the place just like my comments seem to be doing.

I said that it seemed like Hosseini almost wanted to write a short story collection but didn't follow through.  Maureen said she found some comments online, one saying that it indeed was a collection with nine separate stories.

We thought this was the most autobiographical of Hosseini's three books, for example:  a physician figured prominently, the locale shifted several times to include places he had lived, and his father had worked hard to get his family off welfare after settling in California, as had Abdullah.

Because there were so many threads, a couple of us missed cues here and there.  I for one didn't realize that Parwana had pushed Masooma from the tree.  We wondered why Hosseini had weighted some stories, like Pari's marriage and children, and slighted others like Iqbal and Gholam's return from Pakistan.  Claudia was surprised that they could come back and expect to find their property waiting for them, like maybe there would be a statue of limitations, but Jenny said there's no such thing.  Look at the Jews trying to recover items stolen during WWII.

Diana read the passage from some comments she found online -"A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later."  And truly this story was just that, with lots of storylines in between getting on and getting to the end.  And speaking of end, we were all disappointed by the facile wrap-up, just a little too convenient and quick to be consistent with the earlier tone of the book.

We talked about the role of warlords in contemporary Afghanistan and Carolyn said that's why the government is having such a hard time getting power and respect.  They can't provide for the people like the warlords do, which she called the price of submission.  Maureen said she didn't get the sense of place being specifically Afghanistan, and Barbara said she could see it  being India or Iran.

The meeting concluded abruptly when someone mentioned the X-Ray feature in Kindle.  We spontaneously broke into small groups and explored it's function on our different devices.

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