A young heiress, carrying out her mother’s deathbed wish, searches for her twin sister.
Özkan’s heroine, Diana, scion of a wealthy Rio de Janiero family of hoteliers, was named after the Roman goddess of the hunt. Twenty-four years ago, her beloved mother tells her, Diana’s father left, taking with him Diana’s twin, Mary, who was named after the Virgin. Before she dies, Diana’s mother instructs her to find Mary and gives her four envelopes containing letters from her sister. Diana does not really wish to embark on this quest. Her life has become a round of drinking with shallow friends, who fawn over her and call her Goddess. Bored with the gifts and accolades she receives every day, Diana goes walking in a seaside park, where a mischievous old beggar hints that Mary is actually very close to her. An artist, Mathias, captures her attention, and he thinks Diana is his soul mate. He can only be sure if he leaves Rio after their coffee date. (This is one of many pseudo-mystical koans seeded throughout.) When Mary’s letters reveal that, like St. Exupery’s Little Prince, she left her comfortable surroundings to take “responsibility for a rose,” Diana resolves to alter her own life. She’s off to Istanbul where Zeynep Hanim, a wise woman who inhabits a mysterious garden, promises to teach her, just as she had taught Mary before her, how to listen to roses. After Zeynep imparts contradictory advice, e.g., always be on time, but don’t hesitate to knock after midnight, Diana is ready for enlightenment. Soon, she’s listening raptly as two roses named Artemis (Greek counterpart of Diana) and Miriam debate the true meaning of holiness. But not until she returns to Rio will Diana solve the puzzle of Mary’s whereabouts. The message—that definition by others is no match for self-realization—is obvious. However, in failing to depict the depths of Diana’s pre-enlightened existence, Özkan minimizes the stakes that any novel of redemption requires.
A formulaic allegory.