An intensely powerful new novel from the best-selling author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour
‘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. . .
Disclaimer: I received a physical ARC of the book from Penguin India in exchange for an honest review! However, the thoughts, opinions expressed in the review are entirely my own.
Did you know that it takes the human brain about 3 minutes after death to shut off all its functions – ever wondered what the brain thinks or does in those precious moments after your death; when your body slowly shuts down?
I realise that it’s an existentialist quesstion; but it’s one that does sometimes crop up late at night when my brain can’t shut off, and I wonder if this life is anything more than what we have or what we endure? If the idea of flashback of your life when death crosses your path; true?
It is this phenomenon that Eli Shafak explores in her newest offering; 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World through the eyes of “Tequila” Leila – whose brain slows down after she is brutally murdered one night an d her rotting corpse is thrown in the dumpster like the “trash” she is considered. During this slow down, her brain does her the favour (?) of taking her back through random memories of her life; some sad, some joyous, some traumatic, but all very important events in her life.
Every memory that Leila’s brain takes us through, while her body is waiting to be discovered; brings forward a piece of puzzle of who Leila actually was – a girl whose birth was a joyous one, a free, passionate life that she envisioned for herself, to events that shaped her life, to some very special people who have stood by her, to her life as a proud prostitute and the love that she never even dared to wish for herself.
Tequila Leila has five friends; friends less more family, people who have stood by her till the end – Nostalgia Nalan, Sabotage Sinan, Zaynab122, Hollywood Humeira and Jameela– all with their own history, their own demons, and their own troubles – Ms. Shafak ends up giving the readers a look into their past as well – creating a narrative that is not only emotional but also admiring for their resilience and their strength.
Told in two parts (Leila’s death and After); 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World, is an emotional, informative look at the old world charm of Istanbul, through eyes of people it’s given a home to, a city that has endured rebellions, revolutions and a history that cannot be encompassed within the pages of a book – and that Istanbul is a city made of its patrons, no matter how diverse they may be.