Teaser Tuesday: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World, Elif Shafak

The Teaser

Nostalgia Nalan believed there were two kinds of families in this world: relatives formed the blood family; and friends, the water family. If your blood family happened to be nice and caring, you could count your lucky stars and make the most of it; and if not, there was still hope; things could take a turn for the better once you were old enough to leave your home sour home.

The Novel

This is a tender and heart wrenching novel in which, for the first section, we witness the final ten minutes and 38 seconds of consciousness of Tequila Laila, a prostitute in Istanbul who has been murdered and whose heart stopped immediately as the novel began. In a non-linear way we see a range of key moments, in which she makes friends with the only five friends she has in the world, and falls in love.

It is beautifully written and driven by sensual memories, through scents and tastes; it is deeply tragic – and recounts abuse and rejection and violence – but uplifting despite that tragedy.

One of Laila’s five friends is Nostalgia Nalan, a transgender woman and atheist in the patriarchal and religious society. If Alex Reeve wants to learn to write a trans character, he could learn a lesson here.

It is a wonderful paean to friendship and outsiders and dissolving, challenging barriers. In this extract, Laila’s friends have been turned away from the mortuary and refused permission to see her corpse or to give her a funeral because they were not family.

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