10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World
by Elif Shafak

When we first meet Leila, she is recently dead, lying in a dumpster in Istanbul, and despite her death she has quite a lot on her mind. Scientists have recently discovered the brain sustains electrical activity for some minutes after death, and during these ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds before Leila is completely gone, she is thinking back on the formative moments of her life and the people she's encountered.

For the first half of the book, we accompany Leila through these memories, watching her flee a childhood of sexual abuse and enter into a life of prostitution in Istanbul. Despite being a sex worker, Leila seems to establish a life of her own making, including creating her own family out of close friends she makes. She even falls in love and gets married. But you know how it all ends.

In the second half those close friends are trying to find and claim Leila's body and lay her to rest. The lengths they go to accomplish this are at times heartwarming and slapstick.

All of this takes place during important times in Turkey's history, and I feel like I learned something about a place I'm otherwise unfamiliar with. Highly recommended.

arc received from the publisher