Blog Tour Review: The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez

Title: The Moroccan Daughter

Author: Deborah Rodriguez

Published: 2nd February 2021, Bantam Australia

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

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My Thoughts:

The Moroccan Daughter is the engaging second contemporary novel from Deborah Rodriguez to feature hairstylist Charlie and her eccentric grandmother, Bea, who first appear in Island On the Edge of the World.

When Amina is summoned home to Morocco for her sister’s wedding, she urges her best friend Charlie, and Charlie’s grandmother, Bea, to join her, in the hopes that they will provide her with moral support when she finally tells her traditionalist, religious father that she is married to an American man. Though happy to be of assistance to her friend, Charlie also sees the trip as an opportunity to resolve a youthful mistake, while Bea is simply delighted with the opportunity to experience Morocco’s unique culture.

A story of friendship, family, tradition and secrets, The Moroccan Daughter is full of drama as it unfolds from the perspectives of Amina, Charlie, Bea and Samira.

Samira is the Bennis family housekeeper, who keeps many of its secrets, including one that has the power to change Amina’s life. While Amina struggles with a way to tell her father the truth about her life in California, a task made more urgent when her husband, Max, turns up on their doorstep, Samira wonders if it would help her to know the truth.

Charlie’s secret is completely unexpected, involving a mystery man who she met three years earlier during her earlier backpacking travels, and adds a touch of suspense to the novel when it becomes clear he is not quite whom he seems.

Bea is delightful – optimistic, curious and unconventional, she does not let her near-total blindness hold her back. Her interest in people is disarming, and her concern for their well-being sincere, even if she is occasionally a touch meddlesome. Bea also has a keen interest in the mystical, and in possession of her own special abilities, she is intrigued by a nearby Apothecary and eager to learn more about Moroccan shawafas (witches).

Rodriguez transports the reader to Morocco with her rich, sensory descriptions of the bustling Medina in Fes, the tranquil Riad which is home to the Bennis family, and the rocky, dusty landscape of the Atlas Mountains. I liked that I felt I learnt something about the culture of Morocco, from its extravagant weddings to the plight of the Amazigh (or Imazighen).

The Moroccan Daughter is a pleasant escape to an exotic location with engaging characters, and wonderfully Rodriguez provides a handful of delicious authentic Moroccan recipes that can only enhance the reading experience.

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Blog Tour Review: The Island On the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez

 

Title: The Island On the Edge of the World

Author: Deborah Rodriguez

Published: November 5th 2019, Bantam Australia

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

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My Thoughts:

The Island On the Edge of the World is an engaging and thought provoking contemporary fiction novel from Deborah Rodriguez.

At her beloved grandmother’s insistence that her estranged mother is in trouble, Charlie reluctantly agrees to a trip to Haiti to find her, though she doubts April has any need of them since it’s been more than a decade since they last heard from her. On their journey to Port-au-Prince, Charlie and Bea meet Lizbeth, a Texan widow in search of her late son’s girlfriend, Senzey and their child. Together the women make their way through the colourful, confronting, and chaotic streets of Haiti, finding friendship, family, and forgiveness.

Unfolding primarily from the perspectives of Charlie, Bea, and Lizbeth, Rodriguez’s characters are interesting women with strong motives for undertaking the challenging journey to Haiti. Bea feels strongly that Charlie needs to reconnect with her mother if she is going ever to move past the consequences of her difficult childhood, and while deep down Charlie recognises she has a need for some sort of closure, she believes she is simply humouring her grandmother’s ‘visions’ when she agrees to the task. Meanwhile Lizbeth is still grieving after tragically losing both her husband and son in quick succession. When she learned that her son fathered a child with a local girl while working in Haiti with a NGO, she impulsively decided to search for them, but far from her comfort zone Lizbeth is quickly overwhelmed by the task in a country that lacks familiar infrastructure.

Rodriguez’s depiction of Haiti and its vibrant yet disordered culture is vivid and thoughtful. The country has yet to recover from the devastating physical damage caused by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010, nor of the well meaning assistance that followed, much of which has done more harm than good, perverted by ignorance, corruption, and the clash of Christian dogma with the nation’s Vodoun beliefs. The author touches on a number of sensitive subjects that plague the country including human trafficking, child slavery (Restavek), labour exploitation, and prejudice. Yet the people of Haiti fight to survive, and thrive, against all odds, and the Haitian characters of Senzey and Mackenson, the women’s translator/driver, illustrate this admirable spirit of strength and bravery.

Despite the serious elements within the novel, there is also humour and plenty of heart in The Island On the Edge of the World. This is a charming and thoughtful read with a social conscience.

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