Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t your average girl meets boy schtick. Yes, it’s about a coffee shop in Kabul, but it’s so much more than the pink cover would have you believe.
Written by Deborah Rodriguez who embarked on a trip with a medical expedition to Afghanistan post 9/11 to offer her skills in hairdressing, it draws from her own experiences. It’s been criticised for portraying her fictional self in a better light than reality, among other things, but minor controversy aside, it’s a great read.
There are five central characters – all women. There’s Sunny, who set up the cafe, Yazminda, a kidnapped, widowed and pregnant young woman, Candace, a snobby American socialite, Isabel, an English journalist and Halajan, landlady and matriarch. Each woman has her own story, her own trials and sufferings, but also her own joys.
Rodriguez explores Islam, the Taliban, extremism, cultural differences between the East and West, feminism, friendship, and of course, love. It’s not groundbreaking except that it’s bringing these important social and cultural issues to a much wider readership; a readership that perhaps might turn over when the news comes on. It’s no Kite Runner or even How to be a Woman, but it’s well worth the paper it’s printed on.