All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

on January 5, 2018

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul (The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul #1)
Deborah Rodriguea
Bantam (Random House)
2011, 317p
Personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women come together.

SUNNY, the proud proprietor, who needs an ingenious plan – and fast – to keep her café and customers safe.

YAZMINA, a young pregnant woman stolen from her remote village and now abandoned on Kabul’s violent streets.

CANDACE, a wealthy American who has finally left her husband for her Afghan lover, the enigmatic Wakil.

ISABEL, a determined journalist with a secret that might keep her from the biggest story of her life.

And HALAJAN, the sixty-year-old den mother, whose long-hidden love affair breaks all the rules.

As these five women discover there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they form a unique bond that will for ever change their lives and the lives of many others.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is the heart-warming and lifeaffirming fiction debut from the author of the bestselling memoir The Kabul Beauty School.

I’ve been curious about this book for a number of years now and I picked it up either as a freebie or in one of the sales for $4.99 or less on iBooks a little while ago. I was looking for something to read yesterday and decided it was finally time to give this one a go.

Sunny, an American from Arkansas came to Afghanistan after 9/11 and now runs a coffee shop in Kabul. She spends long stretches of time on her own as her lover Tommy, whom she came with, started working for an NGO and now works as a kind of freelancer often on dangerous missions, gone months at a time without contact. The people around her in the coffee shop become like her family, including Halajan, the woman who owns the building and her son Ahmet who stands guard at the door. There’s the barista as well, who doubles as the man who makes sure that everyone checks their weapons when they enter and looks out for Sunny’s safety. On a visit to the Women’s Mission, Sunny overhears Yazmina’s story and realising something about her, offers her a room and work in the cafe to help keep her safe.

The cafe needs to make money and so Sunny hosts a kind of event night where they invite women to come and speak. The first two involve a doctor specialising in obstetrics and women’s health as Afghanistan has one of if not the highest rate of women dying in childbirth in the world. These events bring Isabel, a British journalist and Candace, an American woman who left her diplomat husband for her Afghan lover and has now followed him back to Afghanistan to help him in his work. The women form a loose and imperfect friendship, sharing the difficulties of being women in this male dominated country with its strict rules and protocols.

I was really interested in how ‘Western’ women would cope living in a country with very different laws, traditions and protocols, some of which are very restrictive. Sunny has already been in Afghanistan a while at the beginning of the book but both Candace and Isabel are new, although Isabel has previously been in war torn countries but in Africa. I was really interested in all the women’s thoughts and feelings about Kabul and Afghanistan as a whole, and how they felt about being there, the differences to what they were used to etc. Isabel has a specific reason for being there and whilst researching that, finds motivation and other causes that she wants to help. Candace was married to an ambassador, whom she left for an Afghan and has now followed him back to his country. He’s younger than her and her thoughts are mostly preoccupied with how different things must be for them now that they’re back in his country and why he doesn’t seem as into her as he did previously. Candace wasn’t as large a portion of the story as I would’ve liked – I think there was quite a lot that was glossed over when it came to her. She wasn’t always a sympathetic or likable character but I feel as though she did have a very interesting story, probably quite a bit more interesting than Sunny’s and I wanted more of it.

I really enjoyed Yazmina’s story and the way in which the women rallied to help her in her predicament in many different ways. Yazmina’s situation is truly pitiable and I have to admit I didn’t realise the difficulties that widows faced as well. I thought widow might have been enough of a status to ensure some respect but apparently there are no credible story tellers if the man in the equation is dead and many would be unwilling to believe Yazmina’s story because she is the only one who was around to tell it, having been taken from her family. I presume if her uncle had been present, or her father, or someone {male} to confirm then it might not have been such an issue but I don’t know that for sure. Yazmina was on her own though and would’ve faced very different circumstances had Sunny not overheard her story that day, which made me sad. There have probably been countless girls in such situations. I enjoyed the story that played out for her, in fact the way in which Yazmina, Halajan and Ahmet’s lives intertwined and the way in which Ahmet had to struggle with progressiveness versus his religion (and how he learned some lessons in both) was probably my favourite part of the book.

There’s a sequel to this, which I admit to being curious about. There are characters that I want to see again and find out what’s happening with them. But there are also other characters I honestly didn’t care for too much and felt that this book perhaps didn’t address in depth enough or explain enough why something was happening. Most of the key plots for characters were entertaining but quite a few of them I just wanted more from them. More about the characters thoughts and feelings deep down and more connection between some of the characters as well. I needed to be able to see what was supposedly happening between them, not just be told in a brief sentence of realisation. So whilst I did enjoy this, I didn’t find it amazing. It felt like a sanitised version of what I really wanted to read.


Book #2 of 2018

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