10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world

Elif Shafak, 1971-

Book - 2019

'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 Tu...rkish 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.

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FICTION/Shafak, Elif
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Psychological fiction
New York : Bloomsbury Publishing 2019.
Item Description
"Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize"--Cover.
"First published in 2019 in Great Britain by Penfuin Random House UK / First published in the United States 2019"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
311 pages : illustration, map ; 25 cm
Main Author
Elif Shafak, 1971- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Leila cannot believe that she's been murdered and dumped in a trash bin on the shadowy edge of Istanbul. Ever-courageous Turkish writer Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve, 2017) creates another resilient woman protagonist at odds with Turkey's repressive society in this Man Booker shortlist title, though, in irrepressible Leila, Shafak raises her literary dissent to a new level. The first half of this seductively imaginative, rambunctiously humorous, complexly tragic, and lyrically redemptive tale presents Leila's tough life in enrapturing and enraging flashbacks as her brain lights up with a final 10-minute-and-38-second surge of memories, from the cruel betrayal of her mother, a tyrannized second wife, to the sexual abuse that finally induces Leila to run away to Istanbul, where she finds some safety and love in a brothel. Leila also remembers her five beloved friends—Sinan, her childhood ally; Nalan, a trans woman; Jameelah, a trafficked Somalian; Zaynab, a dwarf and fortune-teller; and Humeyra, a singer who fled domestic violence. This band of squabbling, traumatized, loyal, witty, and heroic outcasts carry the story forward as they seek Leila's grave in the grim Cemetery of the Companionless. Shafak's motley and compassionate cast embodies both the brutal consequences of tyranny and the power of individuals to undermine it in a full-tilt novel set in a fabled city, a swirling microcosm of human complexity and paradox. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize, this audacious, inventive novel by Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve) begins with the death of its protagonist and moves onward from there. An Istanbul prostitute known as "Tequila Leila" is murdered and her body thrown into a dumpster. Though her heart stops beating, her brain continues to function for the 10 minutes and 38 seconds of the title, as she is jolted back to the settings of her most graphic memories. Leila, it turns out, grew up in a rural Turkish town, where she was separated from her mother in infancy. Sexually abused by her uncle and threatened with an arranged marriage, teenage Leila took off to Istanbul, where the only work she could find was in the sex trade. Leila is a lively character, and her life, particularly in Istanbul, isn't unrelentingly bleak. The narrative opens up in surprising ways when Leila's five best friends, all outcasts like herself whose pasts are detailed in the book, decide to rescue her body from the "Cemetery of the Companionless," where it has been unceremoniously buried. This is a vividly realized and complicated portrait of a woman making a life for herself in grueling circumstances, and of the labyrinthine city in which she does so. (Sept.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize Named a Best Book of the Year by Bookpage, NPR, Washington Post, and The EconomistA moving novel on the power of friendship in our darkest times, from internationally renowned writer and speaker Elif Shafak.In the pulsating moments after she has been murdered and left in a dumpster outside Istanbul, Tequila Leila enters a state of heightened awareness. Her heart has stopped beating but her brain is still active—for 10 minutes 38 seconds. While the Turkish sun rises and her friends sleep soundly nearby, she remembers her life—and the lives of others, outcasts like her. Tequila Leila’s memories bring us back to her childhood in the provinces, a highly oppressive milieu with religion and traditions, shaped by a polygamous family with two mothers and an increasingly authoritarian father. Escaping to Istanbul, Leila makes her way into the sordid industry of sex trafficking, finding a home in the city’s historic Street of Brothels. This is a dark, violent world, but Leila is tough and open to beauty, light, and the essential bonds of friendship. In Tequila Leila’s death, the secrets and wonders of modern Istanbul come to life, painted vividly by the captivating tales of how Leila came to know and be loved by her friends. As her epic journey to the afterlife comes to an end, it is her chosen family who brings her story to a buoyant and breathtaking conclusion.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A moving novel on the power of friendship in our darkest times, from internationally renowned writer and speaker Elif Shafak.