Archive for July, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed

Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful writer. His previous books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, sold over 38,000,000 copies worldwide. I loved both. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to his new book And the Mountains Echoed. And it was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Abdullah and Pari, two motherless siblings living in the Afghan village of Shadbagh with their father are separated when little Pari is handed over to a rich childless family in Kabul. Unimaginable opportunities await 3 year old Pari, while Adbdullah’s loss of his beloved sister overshadows his life forever. Their lives diverge like the roads from their family village. The book spans 50 years, with Pari being none the wiser about her early years until she gets a phone call explaining family secrets that Nabi, the former cook & chauffeur of her adopted family, didn’t want buried along with him. From Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco and even the Greek island of Tinos, this is a story about  family, love, honour, sacrifice, and betrayal. Hosseini is a fantastic writer, and writes from first hand knowledge of a country blown apart by war and terror. He is currently a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, and runs his own nonprofit agency that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. I seem to recall from his bio in his previous books that he is a medical doctor as well. Pick up a copy when you’re next in the bookstore, or download your electronic copy for that ride into work. It’s a great book. I loved it.

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Life After Life

This is an exceptionally well crafted book. Kate Atkinson has always been a favourite writer of mine. This time she’s out done herself. Life After Life is brilliant! For someone like me who is fascinated by the whole process of writing and the craft involved, this is probably the best example of how to edit, expand, alter, or give another go at putting your thoughts into text. Originally I wasn’t even sure I wanted to read the book… it sounded a bit odd. “What if you could live your life again and again, until you got it right?” is what the jacket says. I read that and thought “oh no, fantasy”, but it isn’t anything like that. But be forewarned, it is very different from her Detective Brodie series that is so popular. Ursula Todd is born on a cold, snowy night in February in 1910 and dies without ever taking a single breath. In the next chapter, and subsequent chapters, she is born again and again. I know this sounds peculiar but, because Atkinson is such a fantastic writer, I was willing to give the book a go, and boy am I ever glad I did. She pulls this off magnificantly. But don’t think it’s just the same chapter over and over again, Ursula does age in the story. Atkinson changes the chapters, and we see how altering the smallest detail can change a single life significantly (think butterfly effect). This is probably the hardest book I’ve ever attempted to describe well enough to get anyone to read. I hope I haven’t failed miserably because it’s a fantastic read. It’s a definite “must” for your beach bag this summer.

I went to Kate’s website to read “Author note on Life after Life” to discover how the book came to be. It’s definitely worth reading and puts things into context. But… “spoiler alert”… don’t do that until you’ve read the book.

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