Blurb (as on Goodreads):
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…’
For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
‘Tequila Leila’. Soon after her birth, she was given away by her father to her step-mother who couldn’t conceive a child. Resilient, brave and beautiful Leyla, lost to be world only because of a father who wouldn’t take responsibility for his mistake and when he did, he only pushed her further away.
Leyla is now dead. Thrown in a dumpster where her corpse is rotting, she awaits discovery. But for a prostitute in Istanbul, life comes with limited privileges and favors, and Leyla seems to have used it all.
It takes 10 minutes and 38 seconds for her soul to disappear into thin air and she uses this time to remember her past. Every sad memory and every happy event- be it her birth, her unique friends, her life as a proud prostitute (you’ll know about it eventually) and her wedding.
‘Tequila Leila’ had five friends in this mortal world- Nostalgia Nalan, Sabotage Sinan, Zaynab122, Holywood Humeira, and Jameela. And these are the people who stuck to her until the very end. They all have different lives and struggles in Istanbul but their loyalty and love toward Leyla are one of a kind.
“Istanbul was an illusion. A Magician’s trick gone wrong. Istanbul was a dream that existed solely in the middle of hashish eaters. In truth, there was no Istanbul. There were multiple Istanbul’s- struggling, competing, clashing, each perceiving that. in the end, only one could survive.
Amidst all this is Istanbul- a city that sustains them and is privy to numerous injustices, uprisings, revolutions, and death. Be it the prostitutes, the roads and the houses, or the Cemetery of the Companionless, everything has a story and a sad one at that. This story is an emotional journey but it is also very informative and diverse.
’10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World’ is a big picture in itself, comprising of struggles, abuse and misuse of religion. There is no safety in this city and that is the way of life here. The rich survive while the ones who are different are forced to live under unsuitable conditions, abandoned by their family and not accepted by the world either. And that’s how these souls are drawn towards each other- lost and empty but holding on.
*Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Books for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own*