Review: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, Deborah Rodriguez

| 16 February , 2011 | Reply

Kristy McCormick

A fabulous story, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is the first novel from author Deborah Rodriguez. She has also previously written a memoir based around her experiences of living and working for five years in Afghanistan.

And, right up front, I loved this book. I\’m a big fan of chick-lit, and this is one book for the girls that stands out from the rest. It is a novel rich in culture, rich in fabulous detail about life in Kabul (especially life for women), the dangers of suicide bombers and a life lived under Taliban rule. But, ultimately, it is the story of five women who live here, in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Sunny is the bold American who runs the coffee shop of the title. Drawn to Kabul it seems to escape her uninspiring life in the States, but also to follow the maybe love of her life, she falls in love with the city, the culture and the people. But Kabul is a dangerous place, and Sunny has to work harder and harder to keep her coffee shop and its customers safe.

Yasmina is a young woman torn from her family and abandoned on the streets of Kabul. Pregnant and widowed, she is in serious danger until Sunny takes her in and puts her to work in the coffee shop.

Isabel is a journalist from the UK, visiting Kabul in an attempt to uncover the story of her career. But is following her story worth putting her own life, and the lives of those around her, in jeopardy?

Candace is a wealthy American, causing a scandal by leaving her diplomat husband and taking up with her Afghan lover. She is besotted with Wakil, but is there more to him than meets the eye?

Halajan is the oldest of the group, an Afghan woman who has lived all her life in Kabul. Remembering life before Taliban rule, Halajan longs for the freedom women once had and rebels in small ways every day. But her biggest rebellion – a hidden love affair – is about to be discovered.

These five women play out their lives in the coffee shop where they all feel at home, where they discover love, experience betrayal and relish the comfort of female friendship. And this is what I loved about this book – the portrayal of strong female characters, big enough to stand up for themselves but vulnerable enough to still be affected by the day to day minutiae like all of us. And of course, the day to day details of life in Kabul are a little more complex than what I\’m used to, but the intimate worries of women remain the same the world over.

I loved all five women in the book, but the male characters were fabulous too. Ahmet is Halajan\’s son – a devout Muslim who cannot understand, or tolerate, his mothers small bids for freedom; Bashar Hadi, the cook at the coffee shop, a quietly spoken but loyal man, he looks out for all five women as though they were family. And Jack, the enigmatic American who might be more important to Sunny than she realises.

This is a book that I have already promised to pass on to my mum, my sisters and my girlfriends knowing that they will enjoy it just as much as I did. And I\’ll probably run out and grab a copy of her memoir as well.

Available Now: Random House RRP $32.95


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