Review: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

coffee_shop_ARTWORK:Layout 1Title: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul
Author: Deborah Rodrigues
Published: April 11th, 2013
Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 375
ISBN: 075155040X

From the author of the memoir Kabul Beauty School comes a fiction debut as compelling as real life: the story of a remarkable coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan, and the men and women who meet there — thrown together by circumstance, bonded by secrets, and united in an extraordinary friendship.
After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home — it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone.
The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.
Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son — who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment.
When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home — but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy.
As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.
Brimming with Deborah Rodriguez’s remarkable gift for depicting the nuances of life in Kabul, and filled with vibrant characters that readers will truly care about, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is the best kind of fiction—full of heart yet smart and thought-provoking. (Goodreads)

This book follows the lives of 5 very different women who would normally probably never meet, but who are all connected to each other in some way through a little coffee shop. Sunny, an American woman from the South has been running the coffee shop a few years now, but the property is owned by 60-year-old Halajan. Sunny takes in Yasmina, a young, pregnant, recently widowed woman from a rural area who was stolen away by drug lords and left abandoned on the streets of Kabul. And then there are Isabel, a British journalist, and Candace, an American ambassadors wife who’s finally left her husband after years of unhappy marriage, who both frequent the coffee shop as well.

The title, cover and description just scream chick-lit, a genre which I’m not very fond of, but I thought the setting was interesting because I like reading about Afghanistan, which is what made me decide to pick it up. And I’m glad I did, because this book is so much more than your ordinary chick-lit. It deals with a variety of different topics such as inequality, the treatment of women and minorities, terrorism, and forbidden love. I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the author has lived in Kabul for several years herself, because the book shows a good understanding of the history of Afghanistan, the politics, corruption, and the opium trade. Even though this was a fairly easy read it’s not a light read. It deas with some pretty gritty topics as well, which adds something to the book and moves it away from the chick-lit genre it would otherwise be placed in.

Yet there were a few things that bothered me, one of which was the love triangle between Sunny and the two main men in her life. I’m not a fan of love triangles in stories because I think it’s a clichéd and heavily overused plot-device, but luckily it didn’t feature heavily in the story and so it didn’t bother me too much. Another thing that grated with me was Isabel’s use of language. She was the only British character in the story, and she just used a few too many “bloodys” and “blokes” for my liking. This overuse of typically British words were for me a telltale sign that the author was trying too hard to make her appear to be very British, which actually had the opposite effect and made her look fake. And lastly, the way they managed to find Yasmina’s sister towards the end of the book, without any lasting consequences or repercussions for stealing her away from people who wanted to sell her into prostitution wasn’t very credible either.

But in spite of this I think it was a well-written, touching story which I enjoyed reading a lot. I would definitely recommend it to others who enjoy reading about Afghanistan or Muslim countries in general, or who like books featuring female protagonists.

My rating: heartheartheartheart


2 thoughts on “Review: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

  1. yasmine rose

    I have had this book on my tbr pile for ages now but have been reluctant to read it as I was worried it would be too much like chick lit. But your review has reassured me and I can’t wait to read it!

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