The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers - review by Stephen Amidon

Stephen Amidon

Bean Around the World

The Monk of Mokha


Hamish Hamilton 329pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Although much of Dave Eggers’s The Monk of Mokha is set on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, it remains a distinctly San Francisco book. His real-life account of a young immigrant’s embrace of the American Dream merges a number of the city’s characteristic ingredients: progressive politics, ‘disruptive’ capitalism, artisanal coffee. It is an adventure story worthy of San Francisco native Jack London.

The real-life hero of Eggers’s book is Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the son of Yemeni immigrants who was raised in San Francisco’s hardscrabble Tenderloin district. Although Mokhtar’s neighbourhood lies adjacent to the high-rises and pricey bistros inhabited by the city’s gilded generation of tech entrepreneurs, it feels in many ways like an entirely different world: a demimonde of homeless people, sex shops and low-level drug dealers.

Mokhtar grows up a tough, street-savvy kid who barely makes it through high school. But a seed of ambition is planted in him early, compelling him to grasp the greasy pole of American aspiration. He finds work as a salesman at Banana Republic’s flagship store, then as a car

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