I first came across Deborah Rodriguez as the author of the memoir, The Kabul Beauty School, which I gave 4 stars. She had found a need in the local community for a place for Afghani women to meet and talk, to make some money in their own right and to have an identity away from the men. In many ways The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is along the same lines, only this time it is the expat community who meet at the coffee shop to chat and relax.
Although Ms Rodruigez's second book is fiction, it draws on a lot of her experience from her time in Kabul and I sensed that she wanted to raise issues that she felt strongly about.
Sunny is the proprietor of the Kabul Coffee House, which she runs with the help of Halajan, who owns the property, Yasmina, a young girl who had been abducted from her uncle in payment of a debt, and Bashir Hadi who makes the coffee.
Sunny's long term boyfriend, Tommy, works away from Kabul most of the time and she keeps herself busy with the customers. Two very different women become Sunny's friends, Isabel, a British journalist, searching for a gritty story, and Candace, a wealthy American divorcee who is in love with an Afghani man. And then there is the amazing Jack, who can do no wrong.
I liked the premise of the story; the issues that the author obviously wanted to discuss, but I couldn't reconcile these with the way the book was written. Ms Rodruigez says that she employed an editor because she herself is no writer, unfortunately the editor she employed has let her down. There were so many glaring grammatical errors, word repetitions and poor sentences that I started to highlight them on my Kindle - and could quote them here if my Kindle hadn't suffered death-by-coffee soon after I read the book. There were also many weak links in the storyline. There was no explanation as to how Sunny came to be running a coffee shop on Halajan's premises, with Halajan employed there. I couldn't believe Tommy's sudden change of heart towards the end, and Yazmina's adoption into the staff of the coffee shop was painfully predictable. I could go on......
Although I didn't rate the writing style, I did feel this novel had something to offer in terms of Afghani literature. Issues such as the lack of control by women, the fate of pregnant women without obvious male support, women in jail and the development of madrassas, all need to come into the open and this is what this book achieves. With better editing this could have been a good read.