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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

Narrated by: Alix Dunmore
Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4.5 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak, read by Alix Dunmore.

Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize 

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.

©2019 Elif Shafak (P)2019 Penguin Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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)  

"Lyrical and often magical...a love-letter to Istanbul." (The Economist)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Emotional

Elif Shafak, never fails to astonish with her captivating stories within stories.

Be ready to embrace your feelings while listening.

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Dark, gritty, vivid, luminous....

10 Min/38 Sec is a book that is dark and gritty and vivid and, somehow, luminous. Beautiful in its descriptions of Istanbul and rural Turkey, as in its descriptions of difficult human situations. But more than anything, it is a book about deep, nourishing friendships in the face of difficulty. In this it is, from my corner, stunningly radiant, and heart-wrenchingly lovely.

The whole premise and structure of the book is so creative, and while it may harken back to “Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge” on some level, it is a much more thoughtful, and thought-provoking meditation on spirituality and belief, without ever being pedantic, or determined to sell you on something.

The audio is beautifully performed and I will no doubt listen again, at some point soon!

Enjoy!

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A Love Letter to Istanbul

Dr. Elif Shafak has truly done magic in this novel. It is an absolutely honest narrative by a person who genuinely loves her city, her people, and all the women in the world anywhere they might be and however they might live. She portrays her pure love for Istanbul, The City on Seven Hills, with all her flaws and all her beauty, just as if this book is a love letter to Istanbul. In this novel, Shafak has written about the LOVE for humanity. I really enjoyed her smooth, fluent, and tangible narrative and I leaned so much about the politics and history of Turkey and the world between 1960s and 1990s. I hight recommend this novel especially those who want to learn more about the complexities of being a woman in an Islamic environment.

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First 3/4 fabulous.....

Loved the first 3/4 of this story. The last part seemed like a different book. Wasn’t wild about the ending. I will though, check out this authors other books as I was so enthralled with the beginning of the story.

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  • Kelly
  • Colorado Springs
  • 10-25-19

likable and unique characters

The title of this novel comes from the idea (research?) that says the “observed persistent brain activity in people who had died …. for as much as ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds.”

Shafak uses this time table to tell us what her character is thinking about and remembering during those 10 plus minutes. The convention isn't really necessary to tell a story of reflection, but it works well. And I loved that Shafak periodically reminds us of how much time is left before her character's brain stops working and we must exit the story of her life.

We know from the first words that our main character is dead.

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. One last reserve of energy activated countless neurons, connecting them as though for the first time. Although her heart had stopped beating, her brain was resisting, a fighter till the end. It entered a state of heightened awareness, observing the demise of her body but not ready to accept its own end. Her memory surged forth, eager and diligent, collecting pieces of a life that she was speeding to a close. She recalled things she did not even know she was capable of remembering, things she believed to be lost forever. Time became fluid, a fast flow of recollections seeping into one another, the past and present inseparable.

We do not know how she died or whether the death will be solved. The book is a character portrait in the most unique way, and I loved it. I liked Leila from the start. I had compassion for her as a child. I liked her spunky nature as an adult. I liked the people she chose for friends and family. I was completely wrapped up in her life. And the fact that I knew she was dead, and that something terrible must have happened, only made me like her, and her five friends, more.

The book is intricate... chapters begin with tastes and smells that Leila associates with the particular scene she is revisiting. Her five friends have equally complex stories which we explore. And those 10 plus minutes provide structure, but only to the first half of the book. We get to see how the friends respond to her death in the second half.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and loved the quirky characters. It worked for me that they were each so unique and odd because it lightened the sadness of their stories.