I jumped into this book knowing nothing about it other than that it had a pretty cover and was by an author I’ve read before. My most recent Dave Eggers read is What is the What, a story about the Sudanese civil war that documented one of the lost boys experience, telling a story I knew little about in a way that made me care very deeply for their situation. So I knew I would be in for a wild ride with Eggers.
The Monk of Mokha blew me away. This is the story of a young man’s journey to bring back Yemen coffee to the forefront of the specialty coffee scene. Eggers explores Mokhtar’s childhood, growing up in San Francisco, taking the occasional trip to visit his grandfather in Yemen, speaking English and Yemen at different times with different accents to different people. Mokhtar has great experiences to share already in his short life.
The story about Yemen is just as vibrant and revealing as Mokhtar’s personal story, and through Eggers’ writing and Mokhtar’s sharing, we get to experience many of the far corners of Yemen that many of the people of Yemen have not seen. He travels through dangerous war zones, sees the government change hands multiple times, and sees how life carries on in Yemen through it all.
This book felt like a tide that’s always coming in and never going out. It’s action packed, and the tension continues to build throughout the story up until the final pages when the audience (and Mokhtar himself) finally get some relief. I had a hard time putting this book down once I got to the halfway point, and I can’t say that I’ve ever had that problem with a biography. I’ve read plenty of non-fiction, and am often most captivated by memoirs, but this is definitely in the top of my non-fiction recommendation list.