The Monk of Mokha

Category: Book
By (author): Eggers, Dave
  HISTORY / Middle East / Arabian Peninsula
  TRAVEL / Middle East / General
Publisher: Knopf Random Vintage Canada
Published: January 2019
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 352
Size: 8.00in x 5.18in
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*From the bestselling author of The Circle and What Is the What, the true story of a young Yemeni-American man, raised in San Francisco, who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana'a by civil war.

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 statue of an Arab raising a cup of coffee awakens something in him. He sets out to learn the rich history of coffee in Yemen and the complex art of tasting and identifying varietals. He travels to Yemen and visits countless farms, collecting samples, eager to bring improved cultivation methods to the countryside. And he is on the verge of success when civil war engulfs Yemen in 2015. The US Embassy closes, Saudi bombs began to rain down on the country, and Mokhtar is trapped in Yemen. Desperate to escape, he embarks on a passage that has him negotiating with dueling political factions and twice kidnapped at gunpoint. With no other options, he hires a skiff to take him, and his coffee samples, across the Red Sea. A heart-pounding true story that weaves together the history of coffee, the ongoing Yemeni civil war, and the courageous journey of a young man--a Muslim and a US citizen--following the most American of dreams.
Review Quote*"The Monk of Mokha is third in [Eggers's] series of real-life accounts of immigrants to America caught in the jaws of history. . . . Each book is a tale of a latter-day Job and a reflection on the act of storytelling itself, none more so than this latest, in which a singularly reckless young man keeps himself alive like Scheherazade-his ability to spin stories ensures his survival. . . . [T]he son of Yemeni immigrants, [Mokhtar Alkhanshali] grew up street smart and aimless in the seedy Tenderloin district, an inveterate loafer, sponger, bungler, and charmer. An ideal character, in short, whose lofty ambitions and indifference to details and danger give this story more zigs and zags than Lombard Street. . . . In The Monk of Mokha [Eggers] moves lightly between story and analysis, and between brisk histories of Yemeni immigration to America; gentrifying San Francisco; coffee cultivation . . . and the saints and thieves who dispersed the beans around the world." -The New York Times Book Review
"Capturing the spirit of our times with a flair few other writers can muster, Dave Eggers gives us a nail-biting immigrant story in reverse. The Monk of Mokha is not merely about ‘coming to America,' it is a thrilling chronicle of one man's coming-and-going between two beloved homelands-a brilliant mirror on the global community we have become." -Marie Arana, author of American Chica and Bolivar: American Liberator
"The immensely gifted and giving Eggers . . . portrays Yemeni American Mokhtar Alkhanshali, who, after an unruly childhood in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, a transformative stay in Yemen with his grandfather, and success as a car salesman, finally finds his calling, which proves to be quixotic and dangerous: he commits himself to restoring Yemen's long-forgotten standing as the world's first and best coffee producer. Eggers crisply recounts coffee's delectably roguish history, into which Mokhtar's Sisyphean struggles fit perfectly. . . . Readers will never take coffee for granted or overlook the struggles of Yemen after ingesting Eggers's phenomenally well-written, juggernaut tale of an intrepid and irresistible entrepreneur on a complex and meaningful mission, a highly caffeinated adventure story." -Booklist (starred review)
"A most improbable and uplifting success story. . . . Eggers offers an appealing hybrid: a biography of a charming, industrious Muslim man who has more ambition than direction; a capsule history of coffee and its origins, growth, and development as a mass commodity and then as a niche product; the story of Blue Bottle, the elite coffee chain in San Francisco that some suspect (and some fear) could turn into the next Starbucks; an adventure story of civil war in a foreign country. . . . It is hard to resist the derring-do of the Horatio Alger of Yemenite coffee." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Surreal. . . . Eggers tells the exciting true story of a Yemeni American man's attempts to promote his ancestral country's heritage, giving both a timely gloss on the traditional American dream and a window into the nightmare of contemporary political instability. . . . [The Monk of Mokha] works as both a heartwarming success story with a winning central character and an account of real-life adventures that read with the vividness of fiction." -Publishers Weekly
Biographical NoteDAVE EGGERS is the author of eleven books, including the national bestsellers Heroes of the Frontier, The Circle, and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney's, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco. Eggers is the cofounder of 826 National, a network of eight tutoring centers around the country, and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization designed to connect students with resources, schools, and donors to make college possible. He lives in Northern California with his family.