Shafak turns what might seem a polemic against honor killing in lesser hands into a searing but empathetic and ultimately...


Turkish novelist Shafak again explores sociopolitical issues within a deeply human context in this tragedy about how traditional Turkish Muslim attitudes toward women impact a family that has immigrated to England.

“My mother died twice,” is the novel’s telling first line, spoken in 1992 London by educated, assimilated Esma on her way to pick up her brother Iskender from the prison where he’s been incarcerated since 1978 for the murder of their mother, Pembe. The killing is a given. The drama lies in what led to such violence, which Shafak explains through the history of Pembe and her husband, Adem, with whom she moved to London, of their three children who have grown up in England, and of Pembe’s twin sister, Jamila, who has stayed behind in rural Turkey. Pembe has always been the more adventurous sister, Jamila the dreamy, spiritual one. Originally, Adem falls in love with Jamila, but she is already promised to an elderly man from the family that kidnapped her and therefore compromised her honor. Seeing him as a means of escaping to a larger world, Pembe convinces Adem to marry her instead. They move to London. By the late 1970s, Adem has gambled away their savings and deserted Pembe to live with his mistress. To make ends meet, she takes a job at a hair salon and begins to blossom. Bookish Esma and handsome Iskender struggle as teens to find their place in British society, but British-born 7-year-old Yunus is thoroughly British. A magical child, innocent yet wise beyond his years, Yunus becomes the mascot for a group of hippies in a nearby squat. Then Pembe meets a nice man and falls in love. Never mind that Adem is living with his mistress; Iskender feels compelled to save the family’s honor. But 14 years later, Iskender and Esma must come to terms with past actions.

Shafak turns what might seem a polemic against honor killing in lesser hands into a searing but empathetic and ultimately universal family tragedy.

Pub Date: March 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-78483-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...


An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet