Protagonist Amina lives in Carmel, California and as the book opens is planning to return to her childhood home in Morocco for the wedding of sister Naziha. The two siblings currently inhabit very different worlds – Amina, free from the constraints of her strict childhood, wallowing in the freedom of the West, and Naziha the jewel in her father’s palatial home, preparing for her perfect-match nuptials.
But, as we soon discover, Amina’s visit is not just about her sister’s celebration. She has a secret life she must reveal to her father, and invites her best friend, hairdresser Charlie, and his mischievous grandmother, Bea, along for moral support.
Amina, you see, is married to Max and sees her future in the US, but how can she tell her father? When Max turns up unannounced, tensions hit fever pitch, and as we head into the heady, dusty streets and the stunning interiors of enticing Morocco, author Rodriguez keeps the family revelations coming thick and fast – and not just from Amina’s side.
Deborah Rodriguez always wanted to base a novel in Morocco and found the perfect storyline when a friend introduced her to her niece from Rabat, now living in the US. “She told me about what it was like growing up as a girl in Morocco, about her strong family ties, her marriage to an American and her experiences going home. Her father was the director of a prison and she lived on the grounds of a prison as a child. I ran with it … At the same time, I came across a piece about an annual marriage festival held high in the Atlas Mountains.”
All these elements are woven together in a swirling dance of a tale that tickles your senses. While you sadly can’t jump on a plane to Casablanca, you can cook up a couscous feast. Yum.
About the author
Hairdresser, mother, grandmother and author Deborah Rodriguez was born and raised in Michigan, US, until she moved to Afghanistan, which informed her international bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and memoir The Kabul Beauty School. She spent five years teaching at the first modern beauty academy and training salon in the nation, and is also the founder of Oasis Rescue, teaching women the art of hairdressing in post-conflict areas. “For some, learning this trade can make the difference between their family eating, or not,” she says. Deborah currently lives with her partner in Mexico.
THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah, Macmillan
Elsa Martinelli is living her dream raising her family on the Great Plains of Texas until four years of drought brings the Dust Bowl. Her husband has fled and Elsa must choose between the land she loves and a better life in California. She heads off with her children, but the going is cruel – they face discrimination, a migrant camp and the onset of America’s Depression. Emotionally charged, the lyrical prose impeccably crafted will stay with you, as will Elsa’s moving courage.
A NET FOR SMALL FISHES by Lucy Jago, Bloomsbury
Mistress Anne Turner, wife of the Earl of Essex’s physician and a “fuss-a lot” mother to six children, is courageous and unconventional. When she’s summonsed to the chamber of the 17-year-old Duke’s wife, Frances Howard, a life-changing bond begins. Angry she is still a virgin two months after they wed, Frances’ back is covered in the Duke’s whipping welts. “Frankie” wants to know how she can arouse him. Anne is a formidable talent, using saffron to produce yellow material at a time when yellow signified treachery. Launching Frankie into the Jacobean court, resplendent in exotic make-up as a sexual goddess, causes outrage. Based on fact.
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