Tuesday, December 28, 2010

190 (2010 #55). A Cup of Friendship

by Deborah Rodriguez

This is Rodriguez' second book, her first of fiction and the first without a co-writer.  I listened to her memoir, Kabul Beauty School, about three years ago, and found A Cup of Friendship to be very similar.

As with the memoir, I wasn't terribly impressed with this book.  In the acknowledgments, Rodriguez describes herself as "a storyteller first, a writer only later."  I'm not sure that she's truly made that transition yet.  While the stories in this book are chick-lit/gossip-girl/soap-opera interesting, the character development is weak, the plot is thin and somewhat predictable, and switching narrating viewpoints frequently doesn't help.  The characters are stereotypes and the dialogue in particular feels forced.  While the setting descriptions are good and one gets a feeling for the culture of Kabul and Afghanistan, it still felt very much like the superficial view of an outsider.

The main character is Sunny, an American ex-pat in Kabul who has opened a coffee shop (just as Rodriguez did).  She has various friends and employees, American, British, and Afghan, most with their own stories.  The women are all strong and unconventional, with behavior that does not always seem appropriate for a country in as much turmoil as Afghanistan.  Particularly annoying was Candace, the rich American who leaves her diplomat husband for an affair with a (predictably terrorist) Afghan. She throws money and sweet talk around to get her way, but is too clueless to figure out what is going on with her lover.

I felt the title was contrived, perhaps even to draw recognition from the success of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea (which I also wasn't too crazy about).  The book was a light, easy read, but even with the attempts to shed light on the problems of Afghan women today, great literature it's not.

© Amanda Pape - 2010

[I won this advance reader edition from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, with the expectation that I would write a review which is also published on their site. The book will be passed on to someone else to read and hopefully review.]

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