Historical Fiction

A Stunning Departure from Afghanistan that May Leave Some Behind

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

4 star

4 Stars

As a fan of Khaled Hosseini’s books, I jumped at the chance to read his latest novel. The author once again delivered a gem of a book with vignettes woven into a complex tapestry of the nation and culture that is Afghanistan. Hosseini has arguably done more than any other author redefining contemporary Afghanistan beyond the caricature of a tragic, war-torn mess. His previous bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, paint a colorful portrait of a haunting land misunderstood by many.

His latest is a departure from his tried-and-true formula of writing epic stories that bring to life the rich culture and heritage of the Afghan people. Set in far-flung locales from California to France and Greece, And the Mountains Echoed takes readers to new places and realities. Although the author tried to depict life in the United States and Europe, he merely whetted my appetite to read more about Afghanistan. His homeland is where his pen spills mastery onto the page.

Hosseini detoured from his almost-mythical stories of Afghans who persevered under the most difficult of circumstances toward the frailty and flaws of human nature. And the Mountains Echoed offers more shades of gray than its predecessors. The moral hazards and ambiguity in his characters come to life in fateful decisions that lead to pay-off or penance as their choices affect others whose lives they touch…and their own. The morality tale the author spins may leave readers used to rooting for his typically heroic figures wanting. Those expecting this book to be another Afghan epic may be disappointed.

I laud Hosseini for departing from his previous works and breaking new ground. Though I wished at times while reading the book that it was more like what he is best known for, I appreciated his determination to write something different. It adds to his standing as one of today’s best writers of historical fiction. If you’re a fan of his books, you can’t go wrong once you understand that this novel is different from the rest. I give And the Mountains Echoed four stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

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A Roaring Good Allegory of Life, Relationships, and Africa

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Malaika by Van Heerling

4 star

4 Stars

MalaikaI was looking for free books to read and downloaded Van Heerling’s novella “Malaika” on a whim. I’m glad I did. It’s a fast but good read about an American expatriate named Thomas living in Kenya who escapes the West by immersing himself in the culture of the Serengeti and getting in touch with his wild side — in this case, safari wildlife on the African plains. I don’t want to give the fantastic story away beyond mentioning that it revolves around his conflicting relationships with a lion pride and humans. The story is an allegory that links the two in an almost-mystical circle of life. Intrigued or confused? Read the story, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Having lived in Africa and visited the Serengeti, I related personally to the Africa portrayed in the novella. The imagery is good, although it could have been developed further with a more descriptive narrative that paints a fuller picture. At times the story was left wanting. As an American, I also found some of the dialogue too American in style and heavy on the American dream, although neither detracted from the story. In the end, I was left satisfied with an ending that brought the story to closure and left me pondering the deeper meaning proffered by the author.

I give Van Heerling’s “Malaika” 4 stars and recommend it. It’s a fast read that offers a quick and savory taste of Africa.

Malaika is now available at:

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