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Book review: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World

08 Jan 2020 / 10:10 H.

ONE of the shortlisted novels for the The Booker Prize 2019, Turkish writer Elif Shafak captures the last moments of a dying prostitute by the name of Tequila Leila.

As her mind and soul wander into her past, recalling things that she herself could not possibly know, we become gripped by a the story of a woman who was born to privilege in a palatial home in the Turkish province of Van, but who ends up being forced to live a lie.

Leila’s father Haroun is a well-to-do man who was unable to have a child with his first wife. So he marries Leila’s biological mother, who was essentially sold off by her poor family. Haroun is happy to finally have a child of his own.

Believing her doting stepmother is her mother while her real mother is her aunt, Leila is later told the truth but forced to keep it a secret.

This perhaps is the setting for other things that happen to her, such as being raped by her uncle, and being forced to marry a cousin to save the family honour.

She runs away, gets into trouble, begins her downward spiral and ends in a heap of garbage.

Though we know how Leila’s story ends, we want to find out what led to it, and in that aspect Shafak did a great job of making her resonate with the reader.

This book captures Leila’s innocence, her undying love (for her severely disabled baby brother) and also that slight glimmer of hope that she has despite her circumstances.

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