And the Mountains Echoed
introduces us to Saboor and his children
Abdullah and Pari, and the shocking,
heartbreaking event that divides them. From
there, the book branches off to include
multiple other characters and storylines
before circling back to Abdullah and Pari.
How do each of the other characters relate
back to the original story? What themes is
the author exploring by having these
stories counterpoint one another?
The novel begins with a tale
of extraordinary sacrifice that has
ramifications through generations of
families. What do you think of Saboor's
decision to let the adoption take place?
How are Nila and Nabi implicated in
Saboor's decision? What do you think of
their motives? Who do you think is the most
pure or best intended of the three adults?
Ultimately, do you think Pari would have
had a happier life if she had stayed with
her birth family?
Think of other sacrifices that
are made throughout the book. Are there
certain choices that are easier than
others? Is Saboor's sacrifice when he
allows Pari to be adopted easier or more
difficult than Parwana's sacrifice of her
sister? How are they similar and how are
they different? Who else makes sacrifices
in the book? What do you think the author
is saying about the nature of the decisions
we make in our lives and the ways in which
they affect others?
"Out beyond ideas of
wrongdoing and rightdoing, / there is a
field. I'll meet you there."
The author chose this thirteenth-century
Rumi poem as the epigraph for the book.
Discuss the novel in light of this poem.
What do you think he is saying about
rightdoing and wrongdoing in the lives of
his characters, or in the world?
The book raises many deep
questions about the wavering line between
right and wrong, and whether it is possible
to be purely "good"—or purely
"bad." What do you think after
reading the novel: Are good intentions
enough to create good deeds? Can positive
actions come from selfish motivations? Can
bad come from positive intent? How do you
think this novel would define a good
person? How would you define one?
Discuss the question of
wrongdoing and rightdoing in the context of
the different characters and their major
dilemmas in the book : Saboor and his
daughter Pari; Parwana and her sister,
Masooma; the expats, Idris and Timur, and
the injured girl, Roshi; Adel, his warlord
father, and their interactions with Gholam
and his father (and Abdullah's half
brother), Iqbal; Thalia and her mother. Do
any of them regret the things they have
done? What impact does it have on them?
The overlapping relationships
of the different characters are complex and
reflective of real life. Discuss the
connections between the different
characters, how they are made, grow, and
are sustained. Consider all the ways in
which an event in one of the families in
the book can resonate in the lives of so
many other characters. Can you name some
think John Irving chose to end the novel in
? What doSaboor's bedtime
story to his children opens the book. To
what degree does this story help justify
Saboor's heart-wrenching act in the next
chapter? In what ways do other characters
in the novel use storytelling to help
justify or interpret their own actions?
Think about your own experiences. In what
ways do you use stories to explain your own
Two homes form twin focal
points for the novel: the family home of
Saboor, Abdullah, and Pari—and later
Iqbal and Gholam—in Shadbagh; and the
grand house initially owned by Suleiman in
. Compare the homes and the roles they play
in the novel. Who has claims to each house?
What are those claims based on? How do the
questions of ownership complicate how the
characters relate to one another?
The old oak tree in Shadbagh
plays an important role for many different
characters (Parwana, Masooma, Saboor,
Abdullah, and Pari) during its life. What
is its significance in the story? What do
its branches represent? Why do you think
Saboor cuts it down? How does its stump
come back as an important landmark later