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The Last Days of Café Leila

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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,854 ratings  ·  456 reviews
Set against the backdrop of Iran's rich, turbulent history, this exquisite debut novel is a powerful story of food, family, and a bittersweet homecoming. When we first meet Noor, she is living in San Francisco, missing her beloved father, Zod, in Iran. Now, dragging her stubborn teenage daughter, Lily, with her, she returns to Tehran and to Café Leila, the restaurant her f ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  2,854 ratings  ·  456 reviews


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Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Noor’s life has hit a speedbump. She works in a hospital as a nurse while raising her teenage daughter, Lily. Years of marriage are in question after becoming aware of her husband's infidelities. Noor decides to take some time to evaluate her life by taking her daughter to Tehran to visit her father. She has not seen her dad or Iran since she left for California at eighteen.

Noor’s dad runs “Cafe Leila” which has been the family business for years. It continues to serve as a social gathering pl
...more
Diane S ☔
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Zod has kept the cafe going, even throughout the many tumultuous years in Tehran, feeding anyone who needed or wanted to eat,. Even after his wife was killed in a horrible way, and due to these dangerous times especially for woman, he sends his daughter and son to America. Heartbroken he kept going, looking forward to letters sent by his daughter. Now though, a medical emergency has reared it's ugly head and his daughter Noor, dealing with a heartbreak of her own will return bringing with he ...more
Victoria
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an engrossing story with emotional writing that explores the depths of family ties and the place we call home. Told from multiple perspectives and going back and forth in time from pre to post Islamic Iran, the author creates compassionate characters and writes sumptuous descriptions of food, I vacillated between heartache and hunger pain.

Until about a decade ago, I’d not known an Iranian and I now consider myself lucky to have a few lovely Iranian women as close friends. Theirs is one o
...more
Cindy Burnett
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
4.5 stars

WOW is the best word I can use to describe The Last Days of Café Leila. I absolutely loved the book all the way up until the end. The ending made me very sad and while I am not sure how it could have ended differently, I wish it had. I cannot say anymore without spoiling it so I will leave it at that. The rest of the book is absolutely perfect.

My emotions ran the full gamut while reading this book: intense joy, intense sadness, horror, embarrassment, disbelief, and fascination. When I b
...more
Dana
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
I was originally drawn to this book by its cover and found inside a beautiful story of family, love, food, and Iranian culture (which I was, for the most part, unfamiliar with).
LeAnne: GeezerMom
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
On Heritage Day at school, Lily's mom was careful to send her in with cinnamon-laced churros to represent her paternal ancestry. When classmates asked "so what else are you?" Lily, as coached by her mom, lied and replied "Italian." Don't tell anyone you are Iranian!

Born and reared in Tehran but shipped to San Fransisco at age 18 by her father, Noor has turned her back on her home country. She deeply loves her father, the sweet restauranteur Zod, but has not been back in 30 years - at his insista
...more
Fred Shaw
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan,
is a powerful and emotional novel of love, loss and homecoming in Iran.

Cafe Leila is a family owned business in Tehran that has been there for 3 generations, making Iranian dishes with the freshest ingredients. The author’s detailed description of the cuisine was mouth watering.

Zod, the chef at Cafe Leila and the father of Noor and Marquad, lost his wife Peri to Islamic thugs, because as a women she spoke out. She was raped and stoned repeatedly in th
...more
Doreen
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
I enjoy books which illuminate other cultures so I really looked forward to reading this book. Though it does indeed provide details about Iranian culture, it does so in a narrative that I can only describe as awkward and unsophisticated.

Noor, recently divorced, returns to Iran after a 30-year absence to visit her aging father Zod. Noor is accompanied by her recalcitrant teenaged daughter Lily. In Tehran, Zod continues to run a restaurant, Café Leila, which is a neighbourhood gathering place st
...more
Jane
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Heartwarming narrative about three generations of an Iranian family, which since the 1930s has opened and run Café Leila, which has become a landmark on that side of Tehran. A story set in present-day is that of Noor, whose father has sent her to America as a teenager with her brother when the Revolution and subsequent ultra-Islamism exploded in the country. There are flashbacks of family history. Noor is now separated from her husband and at the behest of her father, Zod, returns with a sullen, ...more
Nancy
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a complex and beautifully written novel. It centers on family and home. It is crafted around three generations from America to Tehran. Her descriptions,especially about food, are unparalleled.
Tis will be one of my favorites for a long time to come.
Donna
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cultural
I liked the immersion into the cultural part of this as the author described the culture, expectations, the food, and the people. The relationships were also strong, and so was the strength of love and how to face loss. Even though I liked the characters, I just wasn't pulled into this one. I kept waiting for that to happen. The main factor that contributed to that was the descriptive style.....mainly all the descriptions of the food. That part was too much. But this style of writing also filter ...more
RoseMary Achey
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Noor has lived in the United States for almost two decades after leaving her native Tehran for University. This is the story of her return to Iran with her recalcitrant teen daughter in tow. A story of family The Last Days of Café Leila is a delight for the senses.
Sue
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a lovely, emotional read that happily contained beautiful prose. Set in Tehran, it fascinated me with it's emphasis on the influence of the Persian
culture on family and traditions. Loved it!
Becky
4.5 stars, rounded up to 5....I loved this book!!
I would not have normally chosen a book mostly based in Iran, but I was fulfilling a challenge for a Goodreads book group & I am so glad I "found" this book to read.

Within the walls of Cafe Leila, all the turmoil & unrest from the real world (Iran) have ceased. The food & the culture & the connections to the patrons & to the people who live & work in the cafe were just so lovely. There was love & care & thought but into each meal & the writing & d
...more
Lynne
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
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...

Full review: http://wp.me/p36jwx-17Z
...more
Shilpi Somaya  Gowda
Lovely inter-generational family story in post-revolutionary Iran.
Jo Dervan
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Noor returned to her native Tehran after the breakup of her marriage. She and her 15 year old daughter, Lily, traveled from California to visit with her father, Zoli. Noor quickly discovered that the Iran she once knew had changed dramatically after the Islamic government came into power. The Cafe Leila, which had been a owned by her family for 3 generations, was no longer as grand as it had once been but her father and his workers still maintained it as a local gathering place.

Then Noor learned
...more
Chrissie
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I finally was able to steal away time today to sit and finish this most beautiful book! Donia Bijan is a wonderful storyteller, with such beautiful language, emotion and feeling. Wow. I just loved reading every page, falling in love with the characters the story and the words themselves as the life of Zod and his family members are revealed to the reader. I loved Donia's first book and was looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint.
Jane Reagh
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful combination of luscious and enjoyable reading and fascinating content about Iran and the changes under the Ayatollah. I have read both of Bijan's books and recommend them for anyone who likes to think as well as be entertained. I think this would be a great book for book club discussions!
Caroline
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bittersweet and absolutely delicious! Thank you Donia Bijan for telling this story and bringing me into a world both unknown and familiar. I will certainly recommend it in our little bookshop, The Book Garden.
Laura Stone
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
It was interesting from a cultural standpoint and it started off well but fell off in the latter half. The story just turned rather strange and some odd little short incidents that added nothing overall to the plot. I also didn't care for the ending much.
Inga
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book to feast over! Beautifully written exquisite imagery.
Tonstant Weader
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Last Days of Café Leila is one of those stories that pluck at your heart strings and captivate your senses. Donia Bijan writes about a loving family that finds its way to love from generation to generation, through the tragedies of revolution and the reluctant diaspora of emigration. The focus of the story is Noor who grew up at Café Leila in Tehran but who was sent to America by her father, Zod, when she graduated high school. Zod sent both his children, hoping to protect them from the exce ...more
Afsi
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book left me so nostalgic and brought back such a flood of memories from decades ago I could taste the delicious meals, see the places, and smell the food. So much resonated: the gentility and pride of the people, the family’s love and intense loyalty for each other and their extended family, the generosity and grace they showed everyone, the horror and brutality of living through and escaping a revolution, the sadness of fleeing your homeland for the unknown, the struggle to learn a new la ...more
Minh
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
At times this novel brought me to tears, walking through the crowds at my train station I suddenly felt my chest heave with pain and for the rest of the night I was consumed with thoughts of Cafe Leila and the four generations of family who had laughed, loved and lived in its walls.

Despite having lived in America for the past 30 years, it's to her homeland Iran and Cafe Leila that Noor turns to when her marriage begins to disintegrate, dragging a reluctant Americanised daughter in her wake. She
...more
Ellyn
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-ones-i-love
A novel that has romance, family and a location that teaches you about other cultures, is a perfect read! I really enjoyed this book and this family !
Lynn
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a story about love, betrayal, food, and Iranian culture. It took time for me to like this book but eventually I got into it. The thing I liked the most was learning about Iran and hearing about the food: written in mouth watering descriptions. In fact, I am making Pomegranate soup for dinner tomorrow night. I was less enamored with the characters and I had a hard time keeping them straight. I liked the book but it did not pull at my heart strings as I had hoped.
Sally Monaghan
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. It was so interesting to read about life in Iran before and after the Revolution. I loved the characters, and could smell the delicious food. Now, I need to go to a Persian restaurant. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because I thought that the transformation of the relationship between mother and daughter, and the daughter's acceptance of being in Iran was a little sudden. But, I do recommend the book.
January Gray
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and would read it again.
Diana
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Loved getting to know the characters and taking a look at Iran from their points of view.
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Donia Bijan graduated from UC Berkeley and Le Cordon Bleu. After presiding over many of San Francisco's acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, in 1994 she opened her own restaurant, L'amie Donia, in Palo Alto. She now divides her days between raising her son, teaching, and writing."

News & Interviews

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
29 likes · 46 comments
“Maybe we don’t really grow up until our parents die, she thought. Maybe her infant memory was forever looking to Zod and Pari to make things better because they always did. Because if our parents didn’t exalt us, we spend our adult lives blaming them—for not doing this, and not doing that, not being “supportive,” not making an appearance at our first recital, being overprotective or aloof, damaging our self-esteem. Yet at our best or worst, who sees everything? Who knows us best? Who waits and waits to see what we yet may be? Then one day they’re gone and it’s just you, and there’s nothing left to squeeze, no one to blame for the dismay over the course your life has taken. Once the tears have stopped, it’s just the here and now and the desire to do better, to be closer to the person you want to be. Noor” 2 likes
“It’s the same everywhere, she thought, they’re small and they live with you and you’re in love with them and they move away and a slightly bigger version of them moves in. Then you fall in love again, only to watch that little person leave, and yet a slightly taller, more agile version, who still fits in the toddler bed, but just barely, arrives and there you go again, head over heels. Another birthday will come and this one, too, will go, pigtails and all, and so on, until your heart could burst. You see them turn two, then three and four and you miss that tiny newborn who smelled like milk, the one-year-old who teeter-tottered, and how sweet was that two-year-old who would not let go of your hand, and do you remember running alongside her bicycle at five? Where did she go? Noor” 1 likes
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