Deborah Rodriguez's foray into fiction centres on the lives of the management and regulars at the Kabul Coffee House, where good vibes seemingly create a force field around the place amid the constant threat of bombing. Rodriguez lived in Kabul from 2002 to 2007, during which time she penned the bestselling memoir Kabul Beauty School.
She must have met some amazing women to call on as inspiration for her latest book, but unfortunately the ones she conjures up never develop beyond archetypes: a brash American cafe manager looking for love, her Afghan business partner with a long-hidden love affair, a pregnant girl from the mountains to whom they give refuge, a hard-hitting journalist working on an expose and a trophy wife-divorcee who wants to save the children.
There are too many trite lines for this to be an enjoyable read ("The wind blew her hair, and she willed herself to stop, to breathe, to feel"). It is chick-lit set in a war-torn country; it reminds you about the devastation in Afghanistan and the sorry plight of many women there, but is skewed by an irreconcilably chipper tone.