This book opens in a small Afghan village with a father telling his son and daughter a bedtime story. It’s not a happy story and sets the tone for a tear-jerking novel.
Abdullah and his sister Pari have a special bond and when life tears them apart, the story branches off into the lives of many other characters, all with some (often very tenuous) link to the children.
There’s no doubt that Khaled Hosseini can set a scene. He brings characters and their worlds to life. And for the first third of the novel, I was swept up in the stories of villagers from Shadbagh. A long letter written by Abduallah’s uncle Nabi was particularly interesting as it confessed how his position as a servant in Kabul was the catalyst for separating a family. As the book went on, however, I found it harder and harder to get into the flow every time the point of view changed. My time and emotions had been invested in the very first characters – Abdullah and Pari, and I became impatient with any tangents that did not bring their story forward. The last third of the book felt like a battle and I started to skip whole paragraphs that lingered on details about characters that I simply didn’t care about.
The greatest sadness for me was that by the end of the book, I had even lost interest in Abduallah and Pari’s story, eventually leading to an unsatisfying conclusion.