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When a murder among a family of Turkish immigrants is committed in London, it is clear from the outset that Iskender Toprak has killed his mother; it soon becomes apparent that he did so for reasons of "honor," as Pembe was believed to be having an extramarital affair. Utilizing multiple narrators and a nonchronological structure, Shafak creates a mosaic of three generations of a family and reveals the history of abuse that led to the murder. Culture clashes-Turkish versus Kurdish, rural versus urban, Eastern versus Western cultural norms and expectations-are ongoing themes in this novel set against a backdrop of the political and cultural turmoil of 1970s London. VERDICT The nonlinear structure and lack of a central character create a somewhat disjointed reading experience, especially at first. But as the characters and their stories become more familiar, Shafak's unconventional style offers moments of surprise. A major plot twist toward the end pushes the limits of plausibility, but overall this is a worthy addition to a growing body of literature from authors with Middle Eastern roots. [See Prepub Alert, 9/24/12.]-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs, Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Best-selling Turkish writer Shafak's literary powers resemble those of a djinni in command of whirlwinds. Like her cyclonic family drama The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), her newest is a gyre of multiple points of view, flashbacks, and tragic moral dilemmas. At the center are twin sisters, Jamila and Pembe, born in a Kurdish village where girls are valued only for their purity and obedience. Theirs is a culture in which any suggestion of female impropriety, however unjustified, can be grounds for an honor killing because, as one man asserts, honor was all that some men had in this world. Jamila ends up living alone in rural Turkey, relied upon as a healer and known as the Virgin Midwife. Pembe is unhappy in London with her feckless, unfaithful husband, Adem. Their smart, skeptical daughter, Esma, wants to be a writer, but not a female one ; their younger son Yunus discovers a wildly permissive enclave among druggie punk squatters; and the eldest, Iskender, feels duty bound to defend his family's honor after Pembe is seen with another man. At every turn in this trenchant, dazzlingly imaginative, suspenseful, mystical, and socially astute novel, Shafak sheds light on the crushing consequences of oppressive gender roles, the struggles of immigrants, and the divide between brutal traditions and the quest for freedom and love.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist