Synopses & Reviews
Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by Bookpage, NPR, Washington Post, and The Economist
The Man Booker-shortlisted 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.
"A heartbreaking meditation on the ways in which social forces can destroy a life. Elif Shafak can be unsparing, lyrical, political, intimate... Several novels live in this one, and all of them are moving, generous and elegantly written." Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling and Reputations
"Elif Shafak brings into the written realm what so many others want to leave outside. Spend more than ten minutes and 38 seconds in this world of the estranged. Shafak makes a new home for us in words." Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
"A vivid carnival of life and death, cruelty and kindness, love, politics and deep humanity." Helena Kennedy, author of Eve Was Shamed
“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
“Seductively imaginative, rambunctiously humorous, complexly tragic, and lyrically redemptive.” Booklist (starred review)
“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.” The Washington Post
About the Author
Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist. She has published seventeen books and her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and has taught at various universities including Oxford, where she is an honorary fellow. Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker. Shafak contributes to many major publications around the world and has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. She lives in London.