This novel presents the story of a family torn apart to provide a child for a wealthy couple in Kabul. Following this pivotal moment, the readers hear the story that unfolds from all the character’s voices. In doing this, the readers are allowed an insight into the motives and contexts that drove each individual and thus creating an interesting, but odd, outcome; there is no enemy. This allows the novel to feel as if it is a true story – the perfect ingredient for social and political writing – and every character is made relatable in the experience that we witness with them. It also leads the readers to look for the cause of the suffering and the pain in an exterior force rather than a character.
Before this, however, Abdullah and Pari are told a fable which sets up the themes of the novel, such as loss, self-criticism and sacrifice. These themes weave together and connect all the characters voices into one; ultimately, they are all human. By Hosseini using this technique of a layered story, the readers find themselves opening their minds and being taught an important lesson: in any situation, there is always more than just our own personal context.
Whilst we are experiencing the family’s web of connections and stories, Hosseini does not forget to explore the relationship between Afghanistan and the rest of the world. Through two expats, Timur and Idris, we see the traumas that people are experiencing in Afghanistan and the corrupt Americanised attitudes. Ironically, despite Idris being the culturally sensitive and conscious of the two – and the character the readers find themselves preferring – it is Timur, the ethically questionable and obnoxious character, who ends up being the “hero”. These characters are used to give a critique of the American attitude towards Afghans and how success comes about in this world.
After a long, winding story, layered with a multitude of voices, the audience are finally brought to the destination they have been waiting for. Hosseini, through his characters, says, “A story is like a moving train, no matter where you hop on board, you are bound to reach your destination sooner or later.” In this story, it is definitely later rather than sooner. The unification of the two characters is not quite what the readers expect; as Hosseini did in The Kite Runner, he leaves the audience feeling both unsatisfied and longing for more, and yet smiling and blissfully glad for the characters. However, this is the perfect conclusion for a novel where one particular emotion fuels everything: yearning.
Words by India Woodward