And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini, begins rather simply with a father telling a fairy tale. It’s 1952. Saboor and his two children, sturdy Adbullah and his tiny sister Pari, are walking for days, with only a small wagon and a little food, to the great city of Kabul. Saboor tells them he is looking for work, and they believe him—why should they not? His hands are broken and calloused, his back stooped with constant labor. He is a caring father, and he is a wonderful storyteller. Around the fire that night, they realize that Saboor has never told them this particular story, one full of grief and love—the last story he will ever tell them.
Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters.