This is perhaps my first book of 2021. I mean as a fiction. I did read another book earlier this year, but that was related to blogging and I would consider that more as a part of my work. The little Coffee shop of Kabul is a wonderful book. It is the story of five women who are extraordinary in their own ways. Also it was after a long long time that I picked up a fiction. I have been too much into non fiction lately and I desperately wanted a change.
In fact this year the plan is to keep alternating between fiction and non fiction. Variety is the spice of life, after all!
After books by Khaled Hosseni ( Kite Runner and Thousand splendid Suns), I have somehow been attracted to reading more books with a setting in Afghan. It makes my heart sad to read about the things that happen in this beautiful land. And it also amazes me read these powerful stories. I know they are works of fiction, but I hope and pray that someone had the ability to change their destiny the way it happens in these books.
It also makes me grateful for the immense opportunities and safety that my country provides to its women. I know things are not perfect yet…. but I know we are much better off. With the perfect balance of our rich culture and a bit of westernization, we are on the right path. The challenge is to keep this balance. It is important to take on new roles, but at the same time it is important to keep our culture close to us.
Coming to The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, the story revolves around the little coffee shop that Sunny one of the lead characters in the story own. She rescues Yazmina, a girl from a small village, who was kidnapped because her uncle owed someone a big sum of money which he could not repay. When it is found that she is pregnant she is thrown out of a moving car and left to die. Sunny saves her and brings her to the coffee shop.
Halajan, is the owner of the building where Sunny runs her cafe, and she also helps in the coffee shop. She is a free spirit, but the society and her orthodox son keep her from truly following her heart. You see her revolting silently in small ways like short hair under her head cover, smoking when alone and of course her long hidden love affair.
As the story progresses We are introduced to Isabel and Candance. Isabel is a brave British Journalist with a traumatic past. Yet she risks her future trying to uncover the most dangerous stories. Candance is a wealthy American who separated from her husband to be with her Afghan lover. Her emotions do not seem to have been given the due regard here and she is mainly a means to get things done.
Each of the characters, I find suffers in their own way. The advantaged ones with their freedom of choices as well as the ones who live under a multitude of restrictions. In case of Sunny and Candance it is very painful to see that women are hurt by their basic need of emotional fulfilment. Seeking love is perhaps what hurts them the most. No matter where they come from the pain seems to be inescapable.
The men in the story are varied too. It is lovely to see how Ahmet comes around to support the two women he loves.
There are so many stories in this one book. Each character is so beautiful. There is pain but it feels good to at least see it all end on a beautiful note. I know that reality is many a times not so, but then at least in a book is it not to have things end well. At least that ways I can go back to life without a heavy heart.
When I love a book I always read more about the author. And Deborah Rodriguez, author of The Little Coffee shop of Kabul, totally impressed me. She has spent a great number of years in Afghanistan. Perhaps that is why the story felt so real on so many levels. She was a hairdresser and also ran a coffee shop. Her memoir Kabul Beauty school is a bestseller and definitely next on my list. Her close association with Afghanistan is so evident in the book. Of course it needs a lot of first hand experience to write a book like that. The author seems to be very thorough with her knowledge of the culture and their customs.
She is also a humanitarian who makes time to educate and empower women in Afghanistan, Iraq and other middle Eastern countries. You may know more about her here.
Do read and share how you liked this. Would love to hear from you!