Monday, February 07, 2011

A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez

I never read Deborah Rodriguez' Kabul Beauty School.  But, her novel, A Cup of Friendship, takes readers back to Kabul, Afghanistan in a beautiful story of women trying to live full, happy lives, despite war and oppression.  And, after reading this story, I can understand why Kabul Beauty School was talked about so much when it came out.  Rodriguez brings Kabul to life, as seen through the eyes of an American.
Sunny Tedder is an American who owns the Coffee Shop in Kabul, in the middle of the war zone.  Her barista and right-hand man is Bashir Hadi, while Ahmet, the son of Sunny's landlady, Halajan, guards the door, preventing people from bringing guns in.  And, it's a trip Sunny makes to the Women's Ministry that will bring a young woman into their lives that will change everyone.

Yazmina is a young widow from northern countryside in Afghanistan.  Originally taken to pay for her uncle's debts, she was thrown from the car when the men discovered she was pregnant.  Despite a great risk to her business, and the men involved in it, Sunny took Yazmina in, never telling the young woman she knew she was pregnant.  For, if anyone learned an unmarried pregnant woman was living in the house, it would bring disgrace on everyone involved, since no one knew who the father was, and everyone would be suspected.

But, this book is more than just Sunny's story or Yazmina's.  It's the story of women in Afghanistan, no matter what their nationality.  Halajan, the owner of the Coffee Shop's building, is a victim of Afghanistan's politics.  She lived under freedom and oppression.  Behind walls, she smokes cigarettes, cuts her hair, and still wears a mini-skirt.  In public, she is the mother of a grown son, a widow who cannot remarry unless her son finds her a husband.  She is in love with a widowed tailor who has written her letters for years, letters she can not read because she is illiterate. 

Isabel is a British journalist, a woman who uses men to get into her the best places to cover a story, whether it's a war zone, or a women's prison.  And, she finds her way to Sunny's Coffee Shop, and a way into Sunny's life.  Then, there's Candace, a wealthy American who left her diplomat husband, thinking she loved an Afghan man who was building schools.  She uses her influence to raise money for those schools, to help the man she loves.  Candace has nothing but her influence and money.  Sunny has the coffeehouse; Isabel has her work.  Candace is also searching for a way to be useful.

A Cup of Friendship is a story of friendship, and a story of love in the face of tradition.  The stories of women in Afghanistan, and their treatment, is haunting and tragic. But, the women in Sunny's circle must find a way around that tradition, in order to live.  This haunting story can be summed up in a sentence from the book itself.  "In their hearts, they were all the same; women yearning for rich lives, someone to love and to love them in return, friends to laugh with, drink with, cry with."  These are the women of Sunny's life, the women of A Cup of Friendship.

Deborah Rodriguez's website is

A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez.  Random House, ©2011. ISBN 9780345514752 (hardcover), 304p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It sounds like a hopeful take on a sad situation. A good read for remembering our blessings.

Connie Hollis said...

Last year I was given a box of books by a friend and in it was Deborah Rodriguez' Kabul Beauty School. It laid around for a while before I finally decided to read it and I am so glad that I did. It was fantastic! I enjoyed reading about the different cultures and lifestyles of the Aghanistan women. I highly recommend the book and am looking forward to reading A Cup of Friendship.....

Lesa said...

It is a way to remember our blessings, Elizabeth, particularly since we're in a culture in which women have so much more freedom.

Lesa said...


I'll be interested to hear what you think once you've read A Cup of Friendship since you read the earlier book. I was impressed with this one.

Kay said...

My book club read THE KABUL BEAUTY SCHOOL a couple of years ago. I want to read this one to see how the author's writing has developed. I liked the other one OK, but I was not the biggest fan of it - more of an OK read for me. :-)

Lesa said...

Since I didn't read The Kabul Beauty School, Kay, I'd love to know what you think of this one after you read it, and if the author's writing developed. I really liked this one.