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.
Shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize, this audacious, inventive novel by Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve) begins with the death of its protagonist and moves onward from there. An Istanbul prostitute known as "Tequila Leila" is murdered and her body thrown into a dumpster. Though her heart stops beating, her brain continues to function for the 10 minutes and 38 seconds of the title, as she is jolted back to the settings of her most graphic memories. Leila, it turns out, grew up in a rural Turkish town, where she was separated from her mother in infancy. Sexually abused by her uncle and threatened with an arranged marriage, teenage Leila took off to Istanbul, where the only work she could find was in the sex trade. Leila is a lively character, and her life, particularly in Istanbul, isn't unrelentingly bleak. The narrative opens up in surprising ways when Leila's five best friends, all outcasts like herself whose pasts are detailed in the book, decide to rescue her body from the "Cemetery of the Companionless," where it has been unceremoniously buried. This is a vividly realized and complicated portrait of a woman making a life for herself in grueling circumstances, and of the labyrinthine city in which she does so.