Abdullah loves his little sister Pari as a mother would love her child. With their mother dead and a step-mother at home, Abdullah feels she is the only true family he has left. She means the world to him, and all he wants is to give her happiness abundant. But with a harsh winter coming, and a baby on its way, their Father may have to make some tough decisions. As the brother & sister set off to Kabul to their favorite Uncle Nabi, little do they realize that their togetherness might be coming to an end. What could drive a father to give up a child? Why would an uncle betray the admiration he can see in his niece’s eyes?
One would think the story follows through the lives of Abdullah & Pari. That’s where Hosseini surprises you. With the thread of Abdullah and Pari’s bond, he weaves a complex story of human relationships, not so much in his efforts to bring the brother and sister back together, but more as a broader view of the course their lives take, the many other lives they get interwoven with and consequences each must face of the decision taken for 2 little children in Afghanistan. This is a story of love, separation, regret, happiness, shame, longing and redemption and what these emotions in humans drive them to do!
Each character is so brilliantly explored, their past torn apart to understand their present, that the book almost feels like a collection of multiple short stories. Each character’s goods and bads are so clearly visible that one cannot help but love and hate them at the same time. So while Dr. Markos helps the victims in Afghanistan, he lives with mixed feelings of love & regret for his mother back home. Saboor, who dotes on his children, has no option but to severe a finger to save the hand. Nabi, a gentle and caring man at heart, makes a mistake in his blind love that he cannot forget and seeks redemption by loving and serving another. Nila, rash, haphazard, dangerously free Nila on the outside, keeps fighting the demons of loneliness on the inside. Idris, compassionate & honest, feels the connect with the little girl lying battered in the hospital..but will he remember her once he gets back to his life in the US?
Khalid Hosseini is a master of human emotions. Humans are never black or white. They aren’t even grey. Humans can be blue, brown, red, yellow, purple all at once, and Hosseini knows it only too well. He makes no efforts whatsoever to give you a story you want to hear. It’s a story he wants to say, with all the sorrow, pain, struggle, happiness smack in your face, in a style so simple and yet so absorbing, so like a quagmire sucking you in, that you have no choice but to hear it! After reading his books ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘Thousand Splendid Suns’, I had decided I wouldn’t read his books ever again, there was just too much pain and sorrow. Sigh. So much for the promise. Who can stop herself from reading a book that lays bare the human heart and mind with a reality we cannot deny. We may all hope and wish for sunny days and glorious times and brilliantly satisfying endings, but where life decides to step in, man is but a puppet. One almost feels like reaching out and just tweaking a small decision here, a tiny action there, knowing that would get us where we want. But we cannot. All we can do is read helplessly, knowing it isn’t what we want to read, but it just is what must happen.
My Rating : 4.5/5