Title: A Cup of Friendship
Author: Deborah Rodriguez
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Sunny is an American woman living in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is the proprietress of her own coffee shop. It’s a place where people can come together, and also somewhere that women of Kabul who would be otherwise cast aside can come to find some peace. Sunny takes in a young widow by the name of Yazmina who was kidnapped to pay her father’s debts. Through her and other visitors at the Kabul Coffee House, readers get a glimpse into the plight of women in modern day Afghanistan.
Deborah Rodriguez is the author of Kabul Beauty School, a memoir of Rodriguez’ experiences with women in Kabul. As a result, the shift to fiction on the same subject in A Cup of Friendship is a natural one. Rodriguez does a wonderful job setting the scene and evoking the atmosphere of modern-day Kabul. Things are difficult, and Sunny does her best to persevere despite not knowing what is coming. Violence, bombs, prejudice against foreigners, the ill treatment of women - she’s a brave woman for staying.
At the same time, Rodriguez shows the reader what it’s like to be a woman in Afghanistan. As she has first hand experience, it’s clear that she knows what she’s talking about. It’s heartbreaking to see the freedoms women are denied and how they are constantly vilified and blamed. But it’s also encouraging to see how that thinking is slowly changing and people are beginning to treat women with more generosity. It’s wonderful that a woman like Sunny (based on Rodriguez herself, who operated a coffee shop in Kabul) is determined to reach out to these women who would normally be shunned by society. This is a great book to read if you’re looking for a cultural read and are interested in women’s issues.
The character development in A Cup of Friendship leaves something to be desired. Sunny is really the only fully fleshed out character in the book. The story jumps narrators, and as a result, the reader only gets glimpses into the characters’ lives, rather than full understanding. Rodriguez’ desire to include women in many different situations in her novel is understandable, but the book many have worked better with fewer characters and more detail about them.
A Cup of Friendship is a solid first effort, and while I did want to get to know the characters more, I still recommend the book. It’s a great one to pick up if you want to know about the plight of women in Afghanistan. It’s easy to read, and though the ending is a little too conveniently sweet for my tastes, it’s enjoyable. Though I didn’t review it because I read it in my pre-blogging days, I also recommend Rodriguez’ memoir, Kabul Beauty School.