Title: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
Author: Elif Shafak
Page Count: 312
Publication Date: 2019
Category/Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Family, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Turkish Culture, Women
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.09)
My Rating: ★★★★★ (4.5)
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’
For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
Elif Shafak is a Turkish – English novelist and an advocate of women’s equality and freedom. She is easily one of my favorite aughors of all time.
The crafting and storytelling is quite unique, narrated by a dying protagonist as her brain begins the process of shutting down. Each minute that passes, she recalls a taste or smell, which is then accompanied with a memory associated with it. Interestingly enough, the memories are not necessarily in chronological order.
The final scene is quite powerful…. a masterful culmination of a tender and emotional story.
True to Shafak’s prior pieces of work and strengths, this book is a wondrous blend of the modern changing world versus traditional and sometimes superstitious practices. It brings to the surface and tackles the impact and life under a patriarchal society, exposes and explores various injustices suffered by women and vulnerable populations, and reminds everyone that women are strong, bold and not to be triffled with.
“Unspoken words ran between the women of this town, like washing lines strung between houses.”
Although the prominent theme is the bonds of friendship, it points much to individuality, diversity. tolerance and how we are all stronger together. It is a tragedy of death but also screams of hope and what it means to be alive.
As usual, Shafak provides a vivid depiction of Istanbul and some of the historical events, in this case the massacre in Istanbul on International Workers’ Day in 1977, violent protests against the Sixth Fleet in 1969 and the inclusion of the “Cemetery of the Companionless” – a place that left a knot in the pit of my stomach.
“a city prophesied to remain unconquered until the end of the world. For in the distance, the Bosphorus whirled, mixing saltwater with freshwater as easily as it mixed reality and dream.”
Sensational writing with a compelling story I highly recommend this to pretty much everyone.