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The Monk of Mokha
by Dave Eggers


Overview - From the best-selling author of The Circle and What Is the What, a heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the struggles of everyday Yemenis living through civil war and the courageous journey of a young man--a Muslim and a U.S.  Read more...

 
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More About The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
 
 
 
Overview
From the best-selling author of The Circle and What Is the What, a heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the struggles of everyday Yemenis living through civil war and the courageous journey of a young man--a Muslim and a U.S. citizen--following the most American of dreams.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali grew up in San Francisco, one of seven siblings brought up by Yemeni immigrants in a tiny apartment. At age twenty-four, unable to pay for college, he works as a doorman, until a chance encounter awakens his interest in coffee and its rich history in Yemen. Reinventing himself, he sets out to learn about coffee cultivation, roasting and importing. He travels to Yemen and visits farms in every corner of the country, collecting samples, eager to improve cultivation methods and help Yemeni farmers bring their coffee back to its former glory. And he is on the verge of success when civil war engulfs Yemen in 2015. The U.S. embassy closes, Saudi bombs begin to rain down on the country and Mokhtar is trapped in Yemen.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101947319
  • ISBN-10: 1101947314
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: January 2018
  • Page Count: 352
  • Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Travel > Middle East - General
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary Figures
Books > History > Middle East - Arabian Peninsula

 
BookPage Reviews

An epic, caffeinated quest

If something called the American dream is still alive, it’s personified by the protagonist of the captivating The Monk of Mokha, Dave Eggers’ latest work of narrative nonfiction. In it, Eggers marshals the storytelling talent he displayed in Zeitoun, his 2009 account of a Syrian-American family devastated by Hurricane Katrina and inane bureaucracy, to explore the story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a young Yemeni American who must overcome civil war, terrorism and his own inexperience and self-doubt to pursue his singular vision of entrepreneurial success in the specialty coffee business.

In 2013, while employed as a doorman at a posh apartment building in San Francisco, 25-year-old Alkhanshali, who’d already demonstrated his superior salesman skills by dealing everything from Banana Republic clothing to Hondas, hatched a plan to revive the coffee business in his ancestral homeland. Eggers explains that although Ethiopia lays claim to the discovery of the coffee fruit, the first beans were brewed in Yemen, giving birth to the coffee known as “arabica.”

Alkhanshali’s audacious business model involved the promotion of the direct trading of rare coffee varietals to premium roasters. Ignoring a State Department travel warning, he left for Yemen amid U.S. drone strikes, the attacks of Houthi rebels and the constant threat of terrorism from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

In the final third of The Monk of Mokha, Eggers, who has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, describes Alkhanshali’s harrowing journey back to America, carrying suitcases packed with coffee beans whose quality he hopes will secure both his business’s future and the prosperity of his farmer clients. It’s a nail-biting account, with each checkpoint and interrogation posing a new peril.

Propelled by its engaging main character and his improbable determination, The Monk of Mokha, for all its foreign elements, is at its heart a satisfying, old-fashioned American success story.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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