This book started so small, so small, with such a simple idea of a father and his two little children walking across the desert toward Kabul, and it just
kept snowballing. And I had this particular image of this trunk of a tree with all these branches that went everywhere -- it wasn't a conscious decision to
say I'm going to go France now, and then Greece, it just sort of developed organically that way. I wanted to see how far this story echoed and how many
lives it could touch. I was excited to explore that.
You're also experimenting with style and structure. Each chapter shares a unique perspective from a different character but is connected to the overall
mosaic. One chapter is in the form of a letter, another is a magazine interview, and most resemble short stories. Why break with traditional form and
employ an unorthodox approach for this particular novel?
I was interested in looking at people and situations from different points of view. I thought the magazine interview (set in Paris) was a perfect vehicle
to get inside the mind of this woman, a complicated poet, and get her idea of how she understands herself, her life, the world she was raised in and how
she understands her place in it. Because we've seen her before in an earlier chapter, and she's been described through the eyes of her Afghan chauffer;
she's also being described by her own daughter in the later chapters. So, we have these different accounts of a single person full of contradictions and
conflicts and we get to see her from multiple angles.
This is unlike the sort of archetypal characters I wrote in Kite Runner. There weren't too many ways of interpreting those characters, like
Hassan, who was such a lovely, angelic character. But there are different ways of interpreting this woman. That's what this shifting perspective and
structure allowed me to do; see different people in different situations in different storylines from various angles.
Throughout the novel, I noticed the characters have a persistent need and search for an existing but absent love -- one that is eventually earned but
often at a burdensome cost. For most characters, it seems sacrifice is necessary to truly appreciate and understand love's reality. This reoccurs in
all your novels. What keeps drawing you to this theme?
You're right. It's something I'm drawn to. The very first chapter of this book, which is a fable, sets up questions that are raised throughout the book,
albeit in a realistic way and not an allegorical way. It begins with the notion of "family." I'm from Afghanistan, and family is so central to Afghan life.
It's the way you understand yourself, those around you, and how you perceive yourself in the world as part of this whole.
That opening fable asks what does family mean to you? To what length will you protect its unity? How far will you climb for it? How would you measure your
own personal happiness or what you owe to those around you? Are you capable of inflicting a deep, resounding loss upon yourself out of love for someone
else -- for the greater good? Also, I'm interested in the role of memory. In the fable, the div (a supernatural creature in Afghan folklore) gives
the father, Baba Ayub, a potion and relieves him of the burden and pain of remembering his son, whom the div has captured and hidden in his
fortress). This recurs at the end of the book with the character Abdullah.