Book Review – 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world

Book: 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world
Author: Elif Shafak
Review by: Nidhi Isloor


The plot takes place against the backdrop of a proletariat revolt in Turkey in 1950-60 with a rise in the left-wing activities in universities among other places. The book starts with a homicide victim ‘Tequila Leila’ dumped in a
bin, breathing her last couple of moments. Her life flashed in front of her eyes in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds of brain activity after she died, hence the title.

One remarkable feature of the book is the author’s ability to create the most
powerful imagery you could ever possibly read- be it the cold winter day in Van when Leila was borne or being with millions of others protesting on
International Worker’s Day. Her life story, albeit tad predictable at times, is heart-wrenching. There are soul-crushing moments when she is forced to marry her abuser’s son or moments that led her to become a sex worker in Istanbul. Parts of the book show the terrifying outcome of religious extremism and women completely crushed under patriarchy and polygamy. This book didn’t incorporate a homicide victim for a hotshot detective to put two and two together and solve the crime. The whole book is about the victim. It humanizes the victim. The flow of the book is incredibly original, unlike anything you have read elsewhere. The second part of the book is about how Leila’s death creates ripples if not waves in the lives of her five close friends or ‘water family’. The book follows the beautiful trope of incredible friends, who are all societal misfits, filling the void of the blood family that abandoned the main character.

These friends have staggering depths to their characters, which is another strong aspect of the book.

Like I previously mentioned, the author’s ability to create powerful imagery
would make you want to read the book even if the plot was bad. This book is going to be my Numero Uno recommendation for the next couple of years. You would be blown away into absolute numbness due to the incapability of taking in the sheer brilliance of this book.
I haven’t read the other short-listed books yet, I am placing all of my money on this one.
I give it a whopping 4.5/5.

– Nidhi Isloor