10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

By Elif Shafak
336 pages
October 2020

Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by Bookpage, NPR, Washington Post, and The Economist

A 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.

“Shafak writes with vision, bravery and compassion . . . a stunning portrait of a city, a society, a small community and a single soul.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“A deeply humane story about the cruel effects of Turkey's intolerant sexual attitudes . . . Shafak is a master of captivating moments that provide a sprawling and intimate vision of Istanbul . . . Ultimately, “10 Minutes” isn't really about death, but the persistence of love . . . Leila's ragtag friends, scorned and mocked by polite society, can't possibly triumph over the forces of religious and political corruption, but they - and Shafak - manage to create something truly subversive: a community of devotion beyond the reach of state or mosque.” ―The Washington Post

“Extraordinary . . . a piercing, unflinching look at the trauma women's minds and bodies are subjected to in a social system defined by patriarchal codes.” ―The Guardian