Scottish Families Book Group Review – ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ by Deborah Rodriguez

By Lena McMillan, Family Support Development Officer

August’s book choice for our group was  ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ by Deborah Rodriguez 

The book tells the story of five very different women, whose lives cross paths in a café in Kabul: 

  • Sunny, an American woman who runs the café 
  • Yazmina, a young women plucked from the relative safety of her sheltered, remote, rural world, now vulnerable and alone on the streets of Kabul  
  • Isabel, an English journalist who chases stories in dangerous areas 
  • Candace, a wealth American who has turned her back on her marriage to be with her Afghan lover 
  • Halajan, an older Afghan woman who has lived through different political regimes and strives to be herself while respecting the laws and traditions of her present-day world 

Interwoven into their stories are a multitude of other, mostly male characters, who impact the women in a variety of different ways.  

The book was popular with our group, who gave it a rating of 7.8 out of 10. 

Pretty much everyone agreed that this was an easy read, which transported its readers to another world. Some of our group practically felt they were in the warmth and hubbub of the cafe. That said, there were shocking parts to the story that briefly covered the horrendous treatment of women and highlighted the challenges females can face, through no fault of their own but merely the life circumstances within which they find themselves. 

Love and friendship are other themes we identified in the book, with the café being a centre of support and connection for all five main female characters. Love weaves its way through each of the pages, ultimately winning (for most) in the face of judgement and fear of retribution. 

One criticism made of the book was how many characters there are –perhaps too many – with members of our group feeling there were male characters in the background who added very little to the story and there was a sense of loss in some of the characters not being more developed throughout the book. Another was the big change that one of the male characters makes towards the end of the book, with a few of our readers feeling this happened very quickly. 

We spent ages discussing our favourite characters – Sunny, Rashif and Jack all got a mention, with Yazmina and Halajan each being chosen by a couple of members of our group – as well as who we thought were the bravest characters and considered what we thought the author’s motivation for writing the book were. Our group thought these might be shining a light on some of the conditions faced by women in Afghanistan; exploring cultural differences; highlighting the importance of kindness and showing the power of love. 

Some quotes from our readers: 

‘Brilliant… so well written, I couldn’t put it down and felt like I was there.’

‘I wasn’t sure about some of the words at first, the cultural difference and I was unsure if I could connect with it, but I enjoyed it as I read more, and it held my interest.’

‘An easy read, a page turner in the beginning but the pace has slowed for me now.’

‘I really enjoyed it; it got me from the beginning, and I felt drawn in and involved very quickly. The café and the way the women made time for themselves each week, made me think of this group and how grateful I am for it.’

How to join the book group:

The Scottish Families Book Group is for anyone who is currently being supported by one of our services in Scotland.

For more information or to join us, please contact Lena from our team

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