Author: Deborah Rodriguez
Publisher: Random House
If you know me to some extent, you might have noticed that I enjoy books written by Afghans or just set in Afghanistan. This is why, apart from the gorgeous cover, I set out to purchase this book. Admittedly, I might have raised the bar too high for this book.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is a story about five women; Sunny, Yazmina, Isabel, Candace and Halajan, their journey towards friendship and their overall lives in Afghanistan. I could sugarcoat this whole piece, or I could just be as frank as ever- I disliked this book! Yes, I know that it takes time, courage and effort to write AND publish a book but this book killed every shyness with which I’d have normally addressed a ‘bad’ book. It doesn’t help that I had picked it up to help with a slump.
But, I did finish the book and that was because I had hoped that it would eventually live up to the comment given by Kirku Reviews; ‘As if Maeve Binchy had written the Kite Runner’. Initially, I had no idea who Maeve Binchy was but I had read a lot of books written by Khaled Housseni so the review felt misleading. I did manage to connect with a few characters and Yazmina was my favourite. If this book hadn’t began from her point of view, I might not have finished it. She was fascinating in her own way and felt very much like the typical Afghan woman narrative that I have come to love. Halajan’s obessesion with Rumi, despite her inability to read or write, made me smile and this made my list of ‘things I love about this book’.
Shall we take a minute to sprinkle adoration on Yazmina, for smashing a stereotype through her familiarity with Rumi and her ability to read and write. I say stereotype because she came from a part of the country (Nuristan) whose people are belittled and underestimated.
Along the line, I felt as though I was being showed a picture of Afghanistan that is different from many other narratives that I’ve encountered. At the mention of the Taliban, you don’t normally hear of citizens/ occupants meeting up at a coffee shop whose fence can easily be damaged by bomb exploding few blocks away. Hence, this book scored badly on the scale of reality.
Of course, not all of Afghanistan is dangerous but one would think Deborah was silently telling Westerners to visit Kabul because there are DEFINITELY safe places to lodge into. Don’t misconstrue my point- that is advantageous, as it would have increased the humanitarian aid needed by the citizens of Kabul, but this narrative also reduced the struggles of Afghans a great deal. In addition to all these, the abrupt end of the book was also infuriating. One minute, Sunny was sure she wasn’t leaving Kabul, the other, she was planning a move back to the US.
Ultimately, if you happen to be a ‘chic-lit’ addict and you’re on the hunt for a twist in the narratives, then you should pick up this book but if you’re some serious bunch (like myself), I would recommend travelling down to Kabul to get a more factual exposure, over this book.
Till I get your mail from Kabul, 2/5 is all this book will get from me.