Book Review | The Last Days at Café Leila by Donia Bijan


Donia Bijan
ARC, 289 pages
Publication date:
April 18th 2017
Algonquin Books
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I’m a huge foodie, which was why Donia Bijan’s The Last Days of Café Leila  appealed to me. That, plus the cover is gorgeous!

Set in a post-revolutionary Iran in the city of Tehran, The Last Days of Café is a story that is told across time and through three generations of a family through the use of flashbacks and character recollections with the titular cafe being the one stable presence throughout. We follow Noor as she returns to Iran to her ailing father and his failing cafe after being gone for so long after being sent to the USA by her father for her “protection”. As a result of her return, the reader starts to learn more about her family’s tragic past, and the difficult decisions that her father Zod, was required to make.

The prose throughout this book was incredibly beautiful, as evident from the descriptions of Iran and all the food that was being prepared. The authour’s background in the culinary arts have truly shone in this book, as all the food description made my mouth water. On top of that, the book made me wish that there was an actual Café Lelia that I could visit as I would love to visit Iran if such a place as Café Lelia existed there.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was just how powerful it was. I love the fact that it was a story of a family falling apart and eventually coming together in addition to being a story of great loss (and perhaps greater love, and not just the romantic type). My heart truly broke as I read about what actually happened to Noor’s mother, and how Zod had kept the truth to himself for all these years in order to protect his children.

A poignant and emotionally powerful tale, The Last Days of Café Leila is a book that compelled me to stop and appreciate the family I have. It also taught me so much about the immigrant and the student experience in the USA, as well as the history of Iran and how its history shaped it into the country it is today. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy rich family sagas and books that feature food.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.