Synopses & Reviews
"The Last Days at Café Leila will engage all of your senses. This is the poignantly told story of a family and of the brilliant and beautiful culture of Persia, diminished but not destroyed. It is also a triumphant portrait of a woman making her way from apology to full-throated song." — Elizabeth J. Church, author of The Atomic Weight of Love
A neighborhood café in Tehran is at the center of this powerful and transporting story of love, family, friendship, and homecoming told against the backdrop of Iran’s rich, yet tragic, history.
When Noor returns to her native Iran for the first time in thirty years, so much about her homeland is different. But Café Leila – the restaurant Noor’s family has run for three generations – hasn’t changed. Zod, Noor’s father, is still at the café’s helm, a much-loved patriarch offering laughter, solace, and nourishment to the makeshift family of regulars and waiters who call Café Leila home. With her discontented, very American teenage daughter, Lily, reluctantly at her side, Noor struggles to maintain a semblance of family life. But Tehran is a place of contradictions, where grace and brutal violence both have a foothold, and it’s not long before rebellious Lily is caught up in both.
As the novel folds back in time, stories emerge of Noor’s ancestors, particularly of her mother, who was killed when Noor was a teenager. As past and present converge, Noor begins to understand her place in – and her responsibility to – this world and to the many souls who have sought refuge at the café. The Last Days of Café Leila is a powerful debut about the delicate, sometimes dangerous balance between history and progress, and the resilience of a family in the face of upheaval.
"Donia Bijan’s exquisitely rendered tale reminds us that the bonds of food, family and most of all love make life worth living even at its darkest moments. A story worth savoring, sharing, and taking to heart." Jamie Brenner, author of The Wedding Sisters and The Forever Summer
"Within the captivating setting of a postrevolutionary Iran, Donia Bijan brings to life a family torn apart by loss, tragedy, and distance, whose abiding connections refuse to die. A sensitively conceived, beautifully written story." Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter
"A glorious treat awaits you at the literary table of Donia Bijan. This debut novel has it all, a compelling story of family, faith and love told with a longing heart and an appetite for life beyond the small Iranian village where Noor's roots are planted and her wings were born. This intergenerational story, of a mother and her daughter, dramatized in the moment where it lives is a feast for the reader’s senses and soul. What a stunning novel! Inspiring, evocative and emotionally satisfying." Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
About the Author
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.