Saratoga Reads, launched a decade ago with the goal of bringing the community together for shared reading experiences, will return to its roots this year with the announcement of its book of choice for 2013-14, And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini.
This year’s book harkens back to the inaugural year of Saratoga Reads, when the organization’s title of choice was Hosseini’s debut novel, The Kite Runner. Both of these selected books achieved bestseller status in the U.S. and have been widely read internationally, as has another novel by Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns. All three books draw heavily on the author’s native country, Afghanistan, and its struggles with foreign invasions and social, religious, and cultural turmoil.
“In 2004 we began our journey of reading together with Khaled Hosseini and his novel The Kite Runner,” said Tabitha Orthwein, chair of the Saratoga Reads board. “Now, in celebration of our 10th year, we come full circle with the selection of the author’s third novel, And the Mountains Echoed. We return to a familiar voice and will traverse the world once again through Hosseini’s powerful storytelling.”
And the Mountains Echoed opens in 1952 in the rural Afghan village of Shadbagh and moves over the course of six decades through a complex web of stories that explore the ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another. Following its characters and the ramifications of their choices around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward.
Wrote Eric Leibetrau of the Boston Globe, “After six years, beloved novelist Khaled Hosseini returns to the rugged landscape of his home country, Afghanistan, which he so evocatively brought to life in his two previous bestsellers. . . .In a series of interlocking story lines with shifting viewpoints, Hosseini delves into the joys, sorrows, and betrayals that alternately bind and fracture families. Once again, Hosseini’s lovingly rendered Afghanistan takes center stage, but in this book he extends his examination to encompass how the Afghan identity affects his characters’ decisions and lives in unfamiliar environments.”
Wendy Smith of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Although Khaled Hosseini has lived in the United States since he was 15, he remains engaged in the struggles of his native Afghanistan. His beautifully written, masterfully crafted new book, And the Mountain Echoed, spans nearly 60 years of Afghan history as it investigates the consequences of a desperate act that scars two young lives and resonates through many others.”
Junior companion books for 2013-14
To engage young readers of all levels, Saratoga Reads has developed a list of “companion books” that complement And the Mountains Echoed. In the category of picture books, the top recommendation is The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPucchio, with illustrations by Tricia Tusa. The book tells the story of two young girls from different cultural backgrounds whose choices of food become a contentious issue, only to wind up bonding them in a close friendship.
The top choice for the middle grades is Extra Credit, by Andrew Clements, which explores a pen-pal relationship between Illinois sixth-grader Abby Carson and Sadeed Bayat, the best English-language student in his Afghan village.
Among the companion titles for young adult readers is The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. Set in Afghanistan, the book tells the story of a young girl whose father is arrested by the Taliban. To support her family she decides to masquerade as a boy in order to earn a living in the marketplace.
10 years of Saratoga Reads
Over the past years, the other Saratoga Reads books of choice have been Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skoot, and Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.
“As we read together as a community, we nurture and strengthen our bonds while gaining a greater understanding of the broader world beyond and what connects us to it,” said Orthwein. “We hope the community will open our new selected book and take the journey with us.”
Saratoga Reads is a Skidmore College-Saratoga collaboration.