The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez appealed to me after reading several books by Khaled Hosseini, which are also set in Afghanistan.
There seemed to be a cast of thousands in this story, with each of the five main female characters having a back story and something going on romantically. About half way through I got sick of trying to keep track of everyone, and considered not finishing the book, but by that point felt too committed, so continued. All of the stories became connected with the personal issues resolved by the end of the book, but I never became emotionally attached to any of the characters.
However, each of the female characters did show individual strength and together, they assisted each other and less fortunate women. The author highlighted that in Afghanistan, many women are in prison for crimes such as refusing their husbands, or being unmarried and pregnant, while others are enslaved as prostitutes, often from very young ages.
The book shows farmers growing poppies for opium as a way to provide a living for a family, with farmers telling of how they tried food crops only to find they had no market for their products. This was something I didn’t know about Afghanistan.
Despite all of the sorrows shown in this story, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is a cheerful and happy book, with the main characters enjoying friendships and romances. The women are resourceful and determined. There are weddings, and a birth, bravery and heroics, although there are also injuries and death caused by Taliban bombings.
I think the story would have been stronger if there had been less characters, and a bit less going on. I might also have enjoyed it more if I had not read A Thousand Splendid Suns and And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, both of which left me filled with sadness for the Afghan people.
Khaled Hosseini is a very hard act for Deborah Rodriguez, or any other author, to follow. The Little Coffee Shop in Kabul is a light and breezy read, although the danger to the characters and the tragedy of the war-torn country is constantly in the background throughout the story.