Book cover of A Cup of Friendship

A Cup of Friendship

by Deborah Rodriguez

Publisher: Gale Group
Pages: 540
Hardcover
ISBN: 9781410434685






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Overview of A Cup of Friendship

From the author of the “bighearted . . . inspiring” (Vogue) memoir Kabul Beauty School comes a fiction debut as compelling as real life: the story of a remarkable coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan, and the men and women who meet there—thrown together by circumstance, bonded by secrets, and united in an extraordinary friendship.

After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home—it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone. The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.

Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son—who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment.

When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home—but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy. As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.

Brimming with Deborah Rodriguez’s remarkable gift for depicting the nuances of life in Kabul, and filled with vibrant characters that readers will truly care about, A Cup of Friendship is the best kind of fiction—full of heart yet smart and thought-provoking.

Synopsis of A Cup of Friendship

From the author of the “bighearted . . . inspiring” (Vogue) memoir Kabul Beauty School comes a fiction debut as compelling as real life: the story of a remarkable coffee shop in the heart of Afghanistan, and the men and women who meet there—thrown together by circumstance, bonded by secrets, and united in an extraordinary friendship.

After hard luck and some bad choices, Sunny has finally found a place to call home—it just happens to be in the middle of a war zone. The thirty-eight-year-old American’s pride and joy is the Kabul Coffee House, where she brings hospitality to the expatriates, misfits, missionaries, and mercenaries who stroll through its doors. She’s especially grateful that the busy days allow her to forget Tommy, the love of her life, who left her in pursuit of money and adventure.

Working alongside Sunny is the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son—who, unbeknownst to her, is facing his own religious doubts. Into the café come Isabel, a British journalist on the trail of a risky story; Jack, who left his family back home in Michigan to earn “danger pay” as a consultant; and Candace, a wealthy and well-connected American whose desire to help threatens to cloud her judgment.

When Yazmina, a young Afghan from a remote village, is kidnapped and left on a city street pregnant and alone, Sunny welcomes her into the café and gives her a home—but Yazmina hides a secret that could put all their lives in jeopardy. As this group of men and women discover that there’s more to one another than meets the eye, they’ll form an unlikely friendship that will change not only their own lives but the lives of an entire country.

Brimming with Deborah Rodriguez’s remarkable gift for depicting the nuances of life in Kabul, and filled with vibrant characters that readers will truly care about, A Cup of Friendship is the best kind of fiction—full of heart yet smart and thought-provoking.

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.)

About the Author, Deborah Rodriguez

Deborah Rodriguez has been as a hairdresser since 1979, except for one brief stint when she worked as a corrections officer in her hometown of Holland, Michigan. She currently directs the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan. Rodriguez also owns the Oasis Salon and the Cabul Coffee House. She lives in Kabul with her Afghan husband.

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Editorials

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.)

Library Journal

Thirty-eight-year-old Alabama native Sunny Tedder runs the Kabul Coffee House as an oasis for her predominately Western expatriate clientele—just as long as they leave their weapons at the door. She's busy juggling love affairs with contractors and reinforcing her café's walls to meet UN safety codes when she meets a young, pregnant widow abandoned by kidnappers in Kabul. Sunny gives Yazmina a home and a job, and the young woman soon settles in with a diverse group: Halajan, a wise woman who curses like a sailor; Halajan's son, Ahmet, who is torn between the traditional and the modern; and café manager Bashir Hadi. Rodriguez has a deft hand for detail and the accelerated emotion of the expat existence in war-torn Afghanistan. When the author remains inside Sunny's head, all is well; her forays into Ahmet's contemplations of violent retaliation against his mother and an old flame tie up a bit too neatly. But this first novel is engrossing. VERDICT Fans of the author's best-selling memoir, Kabul Beauty School, should be looking for this one, and other readers will quickly discover it, especially those with an interest in current events in the Middle East or for lovers of cross-cultural tales. Recommended for all contemporary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.].—Jennifer Stidham, Houston Community Coll., TX

Kirkus Reviews

Memoirist Rodriguez (Kabul Beauty School, 2007) returns to Afghanistan, this time with a novel about an American woman running a coffee shop in Kabul.

Sunny, 38, came to Afghanistan with her boyfriend Tommy six years ago. He has become a mercenary doing work he can't talk about. While he's gone, she runs the Kabul Coffee House with the help of her worker, the philosophical Bashir Hadi, her feisty landlady Halajan and Halajan's son, Ahmet. Free-thinking Halajan has sent her daughter to the more liberal safety of Germany, has secretly cut her hair short, wears jeans and smokes cigarettes in private, but Ahmet takes a far more conservative approach to the Koran and its teachings. He is particularly suspicious of his mother's relationship with the tailor Rashif, although both are widowed. In fact, Rashif does pass regular love letters to Halajan, unaware that she cannot read. Then Sunny takes in Yazmina, a young widow who was ripped from her village by men who planned to prostitute her until they realized she was pregnant. Yazmina tries to keep her condition a secret, but both Sunny and Halajan guess the truth and protect her; a pregnant widow could be charged with adultery. Meanwhile, Sunny flirts with her customer Jack, a debonair married American contractor who helps her arrange Wednesday-night speakers to drum up more business. New customers include Candace, an American statesman's ex-wife raising funds for her new Afghan lover's orphanage, and Isabel, a British journalist who suspects the orphanage may be a terrorist front. Ahmet finds himself drawn to Yazmina's beauty and goodness. Sunny and Jack fall in love. Yazmina teaches Halajan to read, and Rashif befriends Ahmet. Candace and Isabel face brutal truths that end in both tragedy and spiritual rebirth.

Rodriguez paints a vivid picture of Afghan culture and understands the uncomfortable role Americans play in political upheavals. But ultimately her cozy sentimentality undercuts the elements of harsh realism, as if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner.

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