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Blog Tour Review: The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez

The Moroccan Daughter 
Deborah Rodriguez
Penguin Random House AUS
2021, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Morocco: a captivating country of honor and tradition. And, for these four women, a land of secrets and revelations.

Amina Bennis has returned to her childhood home in Morocco to attend her sister’s wedding. The time has come for her to confront her strict, traditionalist father with the secret she has kept for more than a year – her American husband, Max.

Amina’s best friend, Charlie, and Charlie’s feisty grandmother, Bea, have come along for moral support, staying with Amina and her family in their palatial riad in Fès and enjoying all that the city has to offer. But Charlie is also hiding someone from her past – a mystery man from Casablanca.

And then there’s Samira, the Bennises’ devoted housekeeper for many decades. Hers is the biggest secret of all – one that strikes at the very heart of the family.

As things begin to unravel behind the ancient walls of the medina, the four women are soon caught in a web of lies, clandestine deals and shocking confessions . . . 

From the twisted alleyways of the ancient medina of Fès to a marriage festival high in the Atlas Mountains, Deborah Rodriguez’s entrancing new bestseller is a modern story of forbidden love set in the sensual landscape of North Africa. Author of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and The Zanzibar Wife.

I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour because I love exploring new places through reading and I have not read many books set in Morocco before! I actually realised a little way into this that it is connected to one of Deborah Rodriguez’s other books, which I have not read, but it didn’t matter and it didn’t affect my enjoyment. I was able to piece together things that had happened prior to this book pretty easily.

Amina has been living abroad for a while – studying first in Paris and then moving to America where she married Max. Her family doesn’t know about her husband and Amina has been terrified to tell them, knowing her strict, traditionalist father will not approve. A marriage to Max would not be seen as beneficial in his eyes. Max isn’t from a prominent family who will bring pride and honour to her family. Amina has been putting it off for as long as possible but now that she’s returning to Morocco for her sister’s wedding, she knows that she has to finally confess. Max is getting impatient as well, tired of being kept a secret. He wants Amina to just tell her father, not understanding how difficult that is for her and the fact that things in Morocco are done very differently to what Max is used to in America.

Amina’s best friend Charlie and Charlie’s grandmother Bea are accompanying Amina on the trip. Bea is almost blind but loves an adventure and is ready to embrace everything that Morocco has to offer, especially the markets and apothecaries and even the more mysterious side. Charlie on the other hand, has quite a secret from her past involving a man from Morocco and she seeks to reconnect with him.

I really loved the descriptions of Morocco – Fès, the Medina, Amina’s father’s riad. It was all so noisy and busy and colourful – all of that came through on the page. I also really loved the character of Bea, who was throwing herself into everything about Morocco, even though she cannot really see any longer. She uses her other heightened senses – her hearing, sense of smell etc – to experience everything in a slightly different way. I found that really interesting – Bea was highly entertaining. Pretty much everything rolled over her and her developing friendship with Samira, who worked for Amina’s father helped some of the secrets Samira had come out.

This book definitely went in some unexpected directions with those secrets! Samira was holding onto a lot of some very serious pieces of information, things that definitely helped some issues and interactions make more sense as I got further into the book. I couldn’t help but sympathise with Amina – it’s easy for someone like me to say hey, just tell your father that you’re married! But she’s had a very different upbringing and the rules in Morocco for women vs men are quite different. Amina’s quite spoiled younger brother Tarik makes that quite clear with his behaviour and it’s no wonder that he’s often resented a little for the freedom he has. Marriages are viewed differently too. Amina knows that her father is going to feel betrayed and angry when she confesses her secret and her fear of disappointing him runs deep. She needed to just finally confess though as the stress of keeping the secret was doing such damage to her – especially as her father was using the fact that Amina had returned home to think about perhaps setting up a marriage for her, blissfully unaware that she’d been married for a year! You can see everything kind of heading towards a big confrontation: Max and his impatience and frustration, Amina and her stress, her father and his determination that she come home and settle into the life he would have mapped out for her. It takes a few earth-shaking secrets coming to light to change things dramatically.

Sidenote: Moroccan weddings sound incredible. Amina’s sister’s wedding is a huge celebration that sounds amazing.

I enjoyed this! I’ve read a couple of other Deborah Rodriguez books before but I think I definitely need to catch up on the ones that I’ve missed.


Book #16 of 2021

This review is part of the blog tour for The Moroccan Daughter, organised by Penguin Random House Australia. Be sure to visit the other stops and see what they had to say about this book.


Review: The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

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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