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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World…

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World

by Elif Şafak

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453389,163 (4.17)14
'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 . . . ' Our brains stay active for ten minutes after our heart stops beating. For Tequila Leila, each minute brings with it a new memory- growing up with her father and his two wives in a grand old house in a quiet Turkish town; watching the women gossip and wax their legs while the men went to mosque; sneaking cigarettes and Western magazines on her way home from school; running away to Istanbul to escape an unwelcome marriage; falling in love with a student who seeks shelter from a riot in the brothel where she works. Most importantly, each memory reminds Leila of the five friends she met along the way - the friends who are now desperately trying to find her.… (more)

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The title of this novel full of delightfully rich characters refers to the premise that humans retain consciousness for some few minutes after the heart stops beating -- perhaps as long as 10 minutes 38 seconds. During those minutes, as one would imagine, reminiscence would occur. And so we meet Tequila Leila, an Istanbul prostitute with a history worth witnessing and a handful of friends worth cherishing. This is their story, each of their stories. Beautifully wrought and captivating, I loved this novel. It lost half a point as I think the author lost just a wee bit of her narrative edge in the final chapters, but this is a strong contender for the Booker Prize. ( )
  EBT1002 | Sep 7, 2019 |
Shafak has an almost poetic way of setting a scene, of describing a place, and telling a story so that it seems palpably present as one reads. The use of the device of memory, the rather disconnected bits of the lives of the characters are brought together beautifully in a story that exists in he midst of the history of Istanbul, separate and yet a part of the whole. Beautiful, powerful, touching, absurd -- in fact all of humanity, its joys and its tragedy, captured, if only for a moment. ( )
  dooney | Sep 7, 2019 |
This novel has an original structure, quite unlike anything I have read. Tequila Leila, a prostitute in Istanbul, has died, dumped in a trash can--but for 10 minutes and 38 seconds more, her brain continues to function. And we learn her history through her memories--from birth to death. Her origin, how she ended up as a prostitute in Istanbul, her marriage, and we learn how she met her 5 best friends over the course of her life. And how she died.

Then we meet her 5 friends--in their grief, we see them come together to give Leila the sendoff she wanted.

This novel gives a great taste of the seedier parts of Istanbul, and stays true to historical events. While I liked the book and found the structure interesting, I also fully expected to have the crime of her murder solved, we learn so much about it. People have clues! Characters are introduced just so the reader knows! But this goes nowhere. Instead, in what felt like an awkward transition to me, we find her friends in their grief. And then, after another awkward transition that seems very unbelievable in an otherwise believable story, we see how her friends' lives go on without her--though with her always in their midst.

I don't expect this to make the Booker shortlist. Yes, the structure is original, but it doesn't feel polished enough to make the shortlist. I am often wrong on the Booker though. ( )
  Dreesie | Aug 16, 2019 |
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Now he has again preceded me a little in parting from this strange world. This has no importance. For people like me who believe in physics, the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittely tenacious illusion.

Albert Einstein upon the death of his closest friend, Michele Besso
To the women of Istanbul and to the city of Istanbul, which is, and always has been, a she-city
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Her name was Leila.
It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt—though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead id not die instantly, that they could, in fact, reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared to learn this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew.
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