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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)

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

"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)  

What listeners say about 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

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Troubling reading

I was astonished that at this day and age, the reader uses an accented English for all the dialogue. I thought we had gone beyond that. I know Turks, and that isn't even close to the accent they have. Why not just read normal English? That would have been far less irritating. We are not so stupid that we don't understand that the characters are speaking Turkish to each other. The reader kind of sounds like Ingrid Bergman. I suspect this is also the fault of the producer. Please, people, this is insulting to all involved, and both annoying and distracting. As to the story, the premise was very imaginative, and the novel started well. But I found the characters and events pretty trite. It picks up again at the end.

1 person found this helpful

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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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Unique and unforgettable adventure in Istanbul

If you ever been to Istanbul or if you have longed to visit, you won't be able to meet a set of friends like these and fully experience the complex bubbling energy that emerges within this novel. It is as rich as a cup of Turkish coffee after a spicy dinner. The flavors blend but maintain their individual identities. Everything I say could be a spoiler or superficial about these 5 individuals, their past stories as well as their present lives of survival on the streets of Istanbul. You will find humor, rascally misadventure, joy, tragedy, and most of all humanity in these lives. I love the way the pacing accelerates when Nalan takes the wheel. The ending is really great so leap in and enjoy!

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Great performance and story line

They should be made into films. I would love to see some Turkish movies again.

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Horrible Narrator

Couldn't tolerate narrator constant loud swallowing her saliva and deep nose berating....HORRIBLE and annoying. I suffered so much when I should concentrate on the story than her loud nose breathing. SHAME

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A Salute to Beauty

Thanks to Elif Shafak’s staggering intimacy with transcendent Love she is utterly unique in her qualifications to captivate and effectively teach what we desperately need. 10 Minutes 38 Seconds is a brilliant literary device. Yet, Shafak’s beauty lies in her relationship to Love. In her luminous storytelling and writing prowess. I applaud Alix Dunmore for her wonderful ability to narrate so well and effectively Shafak’s words. Kudos!

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Brilliant.

Everything about this book is brilliant -- the story, the characters, and without doubt, the performance. Snuggle up to this treasure and fall in love with five friends, at the center of whom is Laila. Istanbul serves more of a character than a backdrop in this book. You can smell the street food and feel the breeze and sense the beauty of the transcontinental Bosphorus Bridge, Lingering close to the surface, however, is the strong underbelly of cultural and political mores exposing the plight of sex workers and women in general.

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Great narration

I love listening to this narrator. Clear, warm, trying less hard. She leaves the emotion, evoked in this beautiful story, open so that I can feel it, she is a talented story medium. Thank you.

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More gruesome than I prefer- but a great story

Celebrating Arab American Heritage Month is important to me. Peace and respect comes from understanding. I have a huge stack for women' s history and black history month, I have selections now owned for Latinx Heritage Month. But for Arab American Heritage Month I could think of nothing, not even any famous role models I wanted to learn more about. Only two books that I'd seen all year (besides ones I'd finished) came to mind and this is the only one I was able to find on audible. I couldn't remember the title or author. The title references how long brain activity extends post-mortem - an unusual statistic, an unusual point of view, which is why I remembered this book 9 months after seeing it on a library shelf. It tells the story of the lives of women in Islamabad, a series of circumstances which drive women to life on the street. It is interesting and well written. Only very small portions of it are rather gruesome. There are lighter comedic moments. I value learning more about this culture. But still prefer Jane Austen to prostitutes and murder.