From Publishers Weekly
Rodriguez follows bestselling memoir Kabul Beauty School with a superb debut novel centering on a group of women who come together in a Kabul coffee shop run by Sunny, a free-spirited American. Sunny takes in the young widow, Yazmina, the casualty of her uncle's debt to Afghan thugs, who had taken the girl as payment but dumped her on the side of the road when they discovered she was pregnant. Halajan is a firecracker older widow who hides her cropped hairdo, jean skirts, and love letters under her burqa. Isabel, a hard-hitting BBC journalist on location to expose the story of the destruction of the poppy fields, uncovers a deeper truth: female workers addicted to the opium they handle who are then, some with their babies, jailed for "moral crimes." Candace, a well-heeled Bostonian, has followed her Afghan boyfriend to Kabul to fund-raise for his school, but soon suspects his real motives for the school and their relationship. A craftsman and a storyteller, Rodriguez captures place and people wholeheartedly, unveiling the faces of Afghanistan's women through a wealth of memorable characters who light up the page. (Jan.)
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In her first take on fiction, Rodriguez (author of 2007’s Kabul Beauty School) trades curling iron for coffee machine in her first novel, set in the Afghan capital. A myriad cast of characters run and frequent the Kabul Coffee House, owned by the unflappable Sunny, an aptly named American woman, and we experience the novel alternatingly from their points of view. Although this method prevents any one character from being truly developed, it provides valuable insight into the many sides of the world of which Rodriguez (who herself opened a coffee shop in Afghanistan) is clearly very knowledgeable and fond. With a message similar to the one that prompted her to open the Kabul Beauty School (to protect and empower the women of Kabul), Rodriguez weaves her tale of life, death, and marriage, relying heavily on that which is currently forbidden and taboo in Afghan society. Readers will appreciate in-depth, sensory descriptions of this oft-mentioned and faraway place that most have never seen. --Annie Bostrom