Review: The Monk of Mokha
by Dave Eggers (Knopf, 2018)
This biography of Yemeni American entrepreneur Mokhtar Alkhanshali combines a well-paced series of heroic misadventures with fascinating coffee facts. The narrative spans continents, cultures and centuries to explore the history of coffee and to describe current events in Yemen. Mokhtar is characterized as a complex, modern, Sinbad the Sailor, venturing far to make his rags-to-riches dream come true. Author Dave Eggers is an engaging storyteller with a flair for dramatic moments.
Mokhtar comes of age in the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods, where he is a restless student and mischief-maker. Worried about his future when he finishes eighth grade, Mokhtar’s parents send him to live with his grandparents in rural Ibb, Yemen. His grandfather, Hamood—a well-to-do patriarch of the family, who in earlier years owned grocery stores in New York— introduces young Mokhtar to a rich Yemeni heritage, Arabic language, and “a thousand proverbs and maxims” which guide Mokhtar’s future. Read full review here.