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After hard luck and heartbreak, Sunny finally finds a place to call home—in the middle of an Afghanistan war zone. There, the thirty-eight-year-old serves up her American hospitality to the expats who patronize her coffee shop, including a British journalist, a “danger pay” consultant, and a wealthy and well-connected woman. True to her name, Sunny also bonds with people whose language and landscape are unfamiliar to most Westerners, but whose hearts and souls are very much like our own: the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son; and Yazmina, a young Afghan villager with a secret that could put everyone’s life in jeopardy. In this gorgeous first novel, New York Times bestselling author Deborah Rodriguez paints a stirring portrait of a faraway place where—even in the fog of political and social conflict—friendship, passion, and hope still exist.

I read "Kabul Beauty School" by this author quite a while ago and it is a book that still haunts me today. When I found out that Deborah Rodriguez had written a novel set in Afghanistan, I was quick to pick it up since my interest was piqued by her first book and the country has been featured so prominently in the political news. The setting for the narrative is the coffee shop our main character (Sunny) operates in Kabul, largely catering to ex-pats. There is not much explanation around why Sunny has ended up in this war-torn country, but the reader jumps right into the narrative of the daily operation of the coffee house. Staffed by Afghans but frequented by ex-pats, the two cultures co-exist and sometimes collide, under one roof. When a young Afghan woman is rescued by Sunny from the horrible fate that awaits her, clashes between western culture and the realities of fundamentalist Islam run rampant.

On the positive side, this novel is written by a woman who has walked in the same shoes as her protagonist.
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  • Seller location: Christchurch City, Canterbury, NZ

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