This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kay Brooks
Living and working constantly under the threat of danger in Kabul, a land dominated by men, Sunny remains hopeful for change. She is the proud proprietor of a coffee shop where she hopes to make women from all backgrounds feel welcome and more importantly, safe. It is at this coffee shop that five very different women come together all with the same dream of making life better for the women of Kabul.
This is a novel of true sisterhood and friendship. Having lived in Kabul herself, Rodriguez is able to offer a valid insight into the persecution of women through her five characters. The rebellious sixty year old Halajan keeps a watchful eye over the younger generations to ensure they do not bring shame on themselves, all the while smoking in the courtyard, wearing jeans beneath her shalwar kameez and holding a torch for a man that she can not love without the permission of her son.
Yazmina’s tale is perhaps the most shocking to an English reader used to a certain level of equality. Torn from her loving uncle and sister and then abandoned due to carrying the child of her deceased husband, which renders her completely worthless as a sex slave, she is forced to seek charity to survive. Isabel arrives from England hoping to gain the story of a lifetime, exploring the opium fields that are under threat of extinction, but finds more pressing matters when she witnesses an appalling act of cruelty. Candace, having left her husband for her powerful Afghan lover, quickly discovers the restrictions and contradictions faced by Afghan women to her own detriment.Despite the shocking revelations throughout the novel, the tone remains uplifting with hope and faith at the forefront of the women’s actions. For some readers, it may be a culture shock, but this is set in modern day Kabul. The fact that this shocking treatment of women continues along with the persecution of those who uphold the true value of the Koran is something we all should be aware of.
At the end of the novel, with happy tears in my eyes, I came across an interview with Rodriguez, revealing the inspiration behind the plot, only emphasising how real these issues of appalling violence and neglect are. This, along with the exciting recipes for Afghan foods, just added to the appeal of the book.
The quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that opens the novel sums up the five characters and Rodriguez herself perfectly. ‘Women are like teabags; you never know how strong they are until they’re put in hot water.’
Deborah Rodriguez's Website