The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul brings forward an idea so unique that I saw a completely different Afghanistan this time, still with its dangers but at some places, breaking stringent societal norms. It was like giving a fresh identity to Afghanistan, a more human side and looking beyond the bloodshed.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul was my companion when I was lost in the streets of Sevilla, Spain. And within those streets, I found a new place. For a normal person during these abnormal times, If someone says Afghanistan, the first thing that comes to mind is Taliban. But then came Deborah Rodriguez, and she introduced me to a new Afghanistan, the one that is changing for good, slowly and gradually. Still in fear and ripped apart, but becoming strong day by day.
Set against the background of political turmoil in Afghanistan and the Taliban coming back in power slowly, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is a story of many protagonists. Starting with Sunny, who followed the love of her life to the most dangerous place in the world and set up her own coffee house while the lover is away on dangerous assignments for the USA government. Daily she plays hosts to unusual and colorful characters at her coffee house along with Halajan, who is the owner of the building which is now known as Kabul Coffee House and helps Sunny out. Halajan is someone who has seen the world, her wrinkles bearing proof of that. She has seen Afghanistan in its glorious days and has also witnessed it turning into dust thanks to countries invading. She follows the traditions, but she doesn’t follow Taliban and their diktats. She is the one with her hair cut short and smoking in a dark alley behind the coffeehouse and also has a secret lover, the one thing that may get her killed if ever found out by the wrong people.
Another character in the story is Candance, who is typical wealthy American lady using her “fundraising skills” to help the destitute of Afghanistan. The only problem; Her sense of judgment is sometimes clouded by the overpowering desire to make the man she loves the most, love her back. Then there is Isabel, a British Journalist with a bad past and who invites bad things to her, simply because she only covers and reports the most dangerous stories of places where people would generally avoid to go. And in the center is Yazmina, a village girl who was pregnant and sold off by her uncle, left half dead on streets of Kabul but saved by Sunny. And then to spice up the story a bit, there are confusions, women issues, political problems, and love winning overall.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul for me was like a breath of fresh air when it comes to the topic of Kabul. As of now, I have only witnessed the sad beauty of Kabul through the words of Khaled Hosseini. But now I saw a Kabul which is trying to get back to life via such spirited women. Women trying to fight against the Taliban societal norms, norms which also include stoning a woman to death, public lashing and selling of daughters to pay the debt. What I read in The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul was strong women trying to do better, despite the hurdles they face daily. The only problem was that the book went cold in some places. The energy and enthusiasm to do something radiating via Sunny, Candance and Isabel ran out towards the end of the book. The book turned into a soap opera at one point, but it was covered up Halajan and Nazmina, who turned out to be stronger.
All in all, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul is a book that you must definitely devour into, but don’t have high expectations out of it. It is a light read with a good soul and now I am looking forward to reading the second part of the series, Return To The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul.