The Last Days of Café Leila

Since Noor Yadegar was sent from her homeland of Iran to the U.S. as a teenager, she's missed her father, Zod, and their family's café, a neighborhood institution. After discovering her husband's infidelity, Noor heads back to her family's home in Tehran with her teenage daughter, Lily, in tow. The world they discover is both familiar and unknown to Noor and totally new to Lily. Iranian American chef and writer Donia Bijan--who also came to the U.S. as a teenager--paints a rich portrait of family, food, love and loss in her debut novel, The Last Days of Café Leila.

Although Noor came to Tehran hoping to escape her heartbreak, she must deal with the weight of her family's history and the realities of life in Iran, harsh and beautiful, gracious and violent. When Lily convinces Karim, the café's errand boy, to join her in a daring escapade, the resulting events will have consequences for the entire Yadegar household: Noor, Zod and the café's small staff of loyal employees. Meanwhile, Noor must confront her father's mortality and decide how she wants to shape her own future.

In the end, Noor comes to know what Zod and the café's employees have always known: "She couldn't change the conditions, she couldn't deny her awareness, and she couldn't stand in the way of death or love." She realizes that "the only thing to do was to keep moving, to do something, to show courage, to give everything she was capable of giving." Bijan's novel is a tribute to everyday resilience, love in the face of deep grief and the power of a good meal to nourish body and soul. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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