Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mini Reviews (Part 4)

A Cup of Friendship (Deborah Rodriguez)
I bought this particular title on a whim, based on a suggestion from a friend.  I'd loved Rodriguez's memoir Kabul Beauty School and was willing to give her first attempt at fiction a try.  It was a great story.  In many ways, the story-telling of Kabul Beauty School carried through to A Cup of Friendship, detailing the intersecting lives centered around a cafe in Kabul, and it's owner, Sunny.  The story-telling was fabulous, the characters complex and believable, and the book left you feeling as if you'd truly been given a window into both Afghani culture and the lives of the ex-pats living in Kabul after the initial defeat of the Taliban.  If you're interested in travel, and culture, and looking for an easy read, this is your book!

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (Rhoda Janzen)
I listened to the unabridged audio version of this book, and I'll admit that I had high hopes for it, since I've had connections to the Mennonite culture for quite a number of years, studied Mennonite history in university, and had read positive things about the book on a few different blogs that I follow.  The text on the jacket promised that this title was "an immensely moving memoir of healing."  It didn't feel like that to me.  It felt like more of a chance to poke fun at the culture that the author suddenly found herself relocated back to, after some painful turns of events.  Janzen does not claim to profess the faith of her culture or her parents and her tone, though trying to be respectful, comes off almost as derisive and dismissive.  And honestly, I'm not sure we see a journey of healing, other than the physical healing that came as she recovered in her parent's home from the injuries sustained in a terrible car accident.  The book is humorous, but at times crass, and it seems as if Janzen goes out of her way to point out the many flaws of the faith and culture of her family and childhood, while focusing far less often on the positive things it also gave her.  I can't decide if I'd recommend this one or not.  It was funny, but left a bit of a bad taste in mouth as well.