At the beginning of And the Mountains Echoed, Abdullah finds a small yellow feather. Although his sister Pari (who collects feathers) has recently been adopted by another family, the Wahdatis, Abdullah still decides to keep the feather. In one sense, he does this because he loves his sister, and wants to give her the feather later. But in a more profound sense, Abdullah keeps the feather because he wants to remember his sister. Decades later, after Abdullah has succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease and can barely remember his own name, much less his sister’s identity, we learn that he has kept the feather for all these years—a reminder of his love for Pari that proves even stronger than his memory. Human memory is a powerful thing, but it’s ultimately weak and fallible. Abdullah’s yellow feather can be said to symbolize the “tools” we turn to in order to strengthen our imperfect memories: objects which are originally intended to strengthen our memories, but which ultimately become the only parts of the memory to survive.
The Yellow Feather Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed
But there was no forgetting. Pari hovered, unbidden, at the edge of Abdullah’s vision everywhere he went. She was like the dust that clung to his shirt. She was in the silences that had become so frequent at the house, silences that welled up between their words, sometimes cold and hollow, sometimes pregnant with things that went unsaid, like a cloud filled with rain that never fell. Some nights he dreamed that he was in the desert again, alone, surrounded by the mountains, and in the distance a single tiny glint of light flickering on, off, on, off, like a message. He opened the tea box. They were all there, Pari’s feathers, shed from roosters, ducks, pigeons; the peacock feather too. He tossed the yellow feather into the box. One day, he thought.
I hold the note tightly against the blustering wind. I read for Pari the three scribbled sentences. They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under. There is a date too. August 2007.
“August of 2007,” I say. “That’s when he was first diagnosed.” Three years before I had even heard from Pari.