A while ago I bought a whole bunch of books really cheap on the Kobo app for my iPad. As I didn’t have these books constantly in my face reminding me to read them, I forgot I had most of them. After finishing a book made of paper on the train one afternoon, and having a good half hour to go before my stop, I fired up the iPad to see what I had sitting on there. I had a lot to choose from – apparently it’s not just physical books that I hoard, it’s virtual ones too! But I ended up settling on The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez.
A quick and for the most part entertaining read, The Little Shop Coffee Shop of Kabul is, as you might have guessed, about a coffee shop in Kabul, or more specifically, five women who form a tight knit community within the walls of the coffee shop. In a city in which being in the wrong place at the wrong time could mean certain death, the coffee shop becomes a symbol of normality and a symbol of what the future could be for Kabul, and for Afghanistan. The women themselves are very different both in terms of their background and their personalities, and each of them brings a different perspective to the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan. There’s a woman that remembers what it was like in Kabul before it became a war zone and one that knows it only as a war zone; then there are three western women, each of them are passionate about trying to help the women of Afghanistan but all have a different way of going about it. Between these women, there are clashes of personalities, laughter, compassion, and a recurring message that women should help each other – not tear each other down.
Overall, I found this to be an entertaining read. The characters were well thought out and different enough that it added some variety to a plot that could have been somewhat bland had it only followed one main character. Having said that, I do feel like some of the characters weren’t developed as much as they could have been, as there were so many other points of focus. However I think what is lacking in depth of character is made up for in the different situations of the women. It was interesting to see the different experiences of women of different social, economic and cultural backgrounds. There are books similar to this that I would say are better, but if you’re after a quick read with good characters, a decent plot and a relatively feel good ending, then definitely give this a go.
WHO SHOULD READ IT Those who enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns will probably enjoy this, although I would say that the depth of character and storyline isn’t quite as engaging as Hosseini’s novel.
WHO YOU’LL LOVE My favourite character was actually one of the men who were strong supports for these ladies – Bashir Hadi, the coffee shops chef and I would say, one of the main reasons for it’s success.
FAVOURITE QUOTE “Something powerful had touched her. Even though she was not Muslim or very good at any sort of religion, she was overwhelmed with the spirit of the place. She breathed in deeply and felt the God or whatever it was that gave people strength was with her now. It was as if the woman with the wheat and the white doves, the holiness of the place itself, put her in touch with something powerful and made her feel more at peace than she’d felt in a long time.”