This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.View all copies of this ISBN edition:
In this lyrical, exuberant follow-up to her novel, The Bastard of Istanbul, acclaimed Turkish author Elif Shafak unfolds two tantalizing parallel narratives—one contemporary and the other set in the thirteenth century, when Rumi encountered his spiritual mentor, the whirling dervish known as Shams of Tabriz—that together incarnate the poet's timeless message of love.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Eli Shafak is an award-winning, bestselling novelist; a champion of women's rights and freedom of expression; and the most widely read female novelist in Turkey. Her books have been translated into more than forty languages. Her novels include The Flea Palace, The Saint of Incipient Insanities, The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, and The Architect's Apprentice. An active political commentator, columnist, and public speaker, she lives in London and Istanbul with her family.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Between your fingers you hold a stone and throw it into flowing water. The effect might not be easy to see. There will be a small ripple where the stone breaks the surface and then a splash, muffled by the rush of the surrounding river. That’s all.
Throw a stone into a lake. The effect will be not only visible but also far more lasting. The stone will disrupt the still waters. A circle will form where the stone hit the water, and in a flash that circle will multiply into another, then another. Before long the ripples caused by one plop will expand until they can be felt everywhere along the mirrored surface of the water. Only when the circles reach the shore will they stop and die out.
If a stone hits a river, the river will treat it as yet another commotion in its already tumultuous course. Nothing unusual. Nothing unmanageable.
If a stone hits a lake, however, the lake will never be the same again.
For forty years Ella Rubinstein’s life had consisted of still waters—a predictable sequence of habits, needs, and preferences. Though it was monotonous and ordinary in many ways, she had not found it tiresome. During the last twenty years, every wish she had, every person she befriended, and every decision she made was filtered through her marriage. Her husband, David, was a successful dentist who worked hard and made a lot of money. She had always known that they did not connect on any deep level, but connecting emotionally need not be a priority on a married couple’s list, she thought, especially for a man and a woman who had been married for so long. There were more important things than passion and love in a marriage, such as understanding, affection, compassion, and that most godlike act a person could perform, forgiveness. Love was secondary to any of these. Unless, that is, one lived in novels or romantic movies, where the protagonists were always larger than life and their love nothing short of legend.
Ella’s children topped her list of priorities. They had a beautiful daughter in college, Jeannette, and teenage twins, Orly and Avi. Also, they had a twelve-year-old golden retriever, Spirit, who had been Ella’s walking buddy in the mornings and her cheeriest companion ever since he’d been a puppy. Now he was old, overweight, completely deaf, and almost blind; Spirit’s time was coming, but Ella preferred to think he would go on forever. Then again, that was how she was. She never confronted the death of anything, be it a habit, a phase, or a marriage, even when the end stood right in front of her, plain and inevitable.
The Rubinsteins lived in Northampton, Massachusetts, in a large Victorian house that needed some renovation but still was splendid, with five bedrooms, three baths, shiny hardwood floors, a three-car garage, French doors, and, best of all, an outdoor Jacuzzi. They had life insurance, car insurance, retirement plans, college savings plans, joint bank accounts, and, in addition to the house they lived in, two prestigious apartments: one in Boston, the other in Rhode Island. She and David had worked hard for all this. A big, busy house with children, elegant furniture, and the wafting scent of homemade pies might seem a cliché to some people, but to them it was the picture of an ideal life. They had built their marriage around this shared vision and had attained most, if not all, of their dreams.
On their last Valentine’s Day, her husband had given her a heart-shaped diamond pendant and a card that read,
To my dear Ella,
A woman with a quiet manner, a generous heart, and the patience of a saint. Thank you for accepting me as I am. Thank you for being my wife.
Ella had never confessed this to David, but reading his card had felt like reading an obituary. This is what they will write about me when I die, she had thought. And if they were sincere, they might also add this:
Building her whole life around her husband and children, Ella lacked any survival techniques to help her cope with life’s hardships on her own. She was not the type to throw caution to the wind. Even changing her daily coffee brand was a major effort.
All of which is why no one, including Ella, could explain what was going on when she filed for divorce in the fall of 2008 after twenty years of marriage.
But there was a reason: love.
They did not live in the same city. Not even on the same continent. The two of them were not only miles apart but also as different as day and night. Their lifestyles were so dissimilar that it seemed impossible for them to bear each other’s presence, never mind fall in love. But it happened. And it happened fast, so fast in fact that Ella had no time to realize what was happening and to be on guard, if one could ever be on guard against love.
Love came to Ella as suddenly and brusquely as if a stone had been hurled from out of nowhere into the tranquil pond of her life.
NORTHAMPTON, MAY 17, 2008
Birds were singing outside her kitchen window on that balmy day in spring. Afterward Ella replayed the scene in her mind so many times that, rather than a fragment from the past, it felt like an ongoing moment still happening somewhere out there in the universe.
There they were, sitting around the table, having a late family lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Her husband was filling his plate with fried chicken legs, his favorite food. Avi was playing his knife and fork like drumsticks while his twin, Orly, was trying to calculate how many bites of which food she could eat so as not to ruin her diet of 650 calories a day. Jeannette, who was a freshman at Mount Holyoke College nearby, seemed lost in her thoughts as she spread cream cheese on another slice of bread. Also at the table sat Aunt Esther, who had stopped by to drop off one of her famous marble cakes and then stayed on for lunch. Ella had a lot of work to do afterward, but she was not ready to leave the table just yet. Lately they didn’t have too many shared family meals, and she saw this as a golden chance for everyone to reconnect.
“Esther, did Ella give you the good news?” David asked suddenly. “She found a great job.”
Though Ella had graduated with a degree in English literature and loved fiction, she hadn’t done much in the field after college, other than editing small pieces for women’s magazines, attending a few book clubs, and occasionally writing book reviews for some local papers. That was all. There was a time when she’d aspired to become a prominent book critic, but then she simply accepted the fact that life had carried her elsewhere, turning her into an industrious housewife with three kids and endless domestic responsibilities.
Not that she complained. Being the mother, the wife, the dog walker, and the housekeeper kept her busy enough. She didn’t have to be a breadwinner on top of all these. Though none of her feminist friends from Smith College approved of her choice, she was satisfied to be a stay-at-home mom and grateful that she and her husband could afford it. Besides, she had never abandoned her passion for books and still considered herself a voracious reader.
A few years ago, things had begun to change. The children were growing up, and they made it clear that they didn’t need her as much as they once had. Realizing that she had too much time to spare and no one to spend it with, Ella had considered how it might be to find a job. David had encouraged her, but though they kept talking and talking about it, she rarely pursued the opportunities that came her way, and when she did, potential employers were always looking for someone younger or more experienced. Afraid of being rejected over and over, she had simply let the subject drop.
Nevertheless, in May 2008 whatever obstacle had impeded her from finding a job all these years unexpectedly vanished. Two weeks shy of her fortieth birthday, she found herself working for a literary agency based in Boston. It was her husband who found her the job through one of his clients—or perhaps through one of his mistresses.
“Oh, it’s no big deal,” Ella rushed to explain now. “I’m only a part-time reader for a literary agent.”
But David seemed determined not to let her think too little of her new job. “Come on, tell them it’s a well-known agency,” he urged, nudging her, and when she refused to comply, he heartily agreed with himself. “It’s a prestigious place, Esther. You should see the other assistants! Girls and boys fresh out of the best colleges. Ella is the only one going back to work after being a housewife for years. Now, isn’t she something?”
Ella wondered if, deep inside, her husband felt guilty about keeping her away from a career, or else about cheating on her—these being the only two explanations she could think of as to why he was now going overboard in his enthusiasm.
Still smiling, David concluded, “This is what I call chutzpah. We’re all proud of her.”
“She is a prize. Always was,” said Aunt Esther in a voice so sentimental that it sounded as if Ella had left the table and was gone for good.
They all gazed at her lovingly. Even Avi didn’t make a cynical remark, and Orly for once seemed to care about something other than her looks. Ella forced herself to appreciate this moment of kindness, but she felt an overwhelming exhaustion that she had never experienced before. She secretly prayed for someone to change the subject.
Jeannette, her older daughter, must have heard the prayer, for she suddenly chimed in, “I have some good news, too.”
All heads turned toward her, faces beaming with expectation.
“Scott and I have decided to get married,” Jeannette announced. “Oh, I know what you guys are going to say! That we haven’t finished college yet and all that, but you’ve got to understand, we both feel ready for the next big move.”
An awkward silence descended upon the kitchen table as the warmth that had canopied them just a moment ago evaporated. Orly and Avi exchanged blank looks, and Aunt Esther froze with her hand tightened around a glass of apple juice. David put his fork aside as if he had no appetite left and squinted at Jeannette with his light brown eyes that were deeply creased with smile lines at the corners. However, right now he was anything but smiling. His mouth had drawn into a pout, as though he had just downed a swig of vinegar.
“Great! I expected you to share my happiness, but I get this cold treatment instead,” Jeannette whined.
“You just said you were getting married,” remarked David as ifJeannette didn’t know what she’d said and needed to be informed.
“Dad, I know it seems a bit too soon, but Scott proposed to me the other day and I’ve already said yes.”
“But why?” asked Ella.
From the way Jeannette looked at her, Ella reckoned, that was not the kind of question her daughter had expected. She would rather have been asked “When?” or “How?” In either case it meant that she could start shopping for her wedding dress. The question “Why?” was another matter altogether and had completely caught her off guard.
“Because I love him, I guess.” Jeannette’s tone was slightly condescending.
“Honey, what I meant was, why the rush?” insisted Ella. “Are you pregnant or something?”
Aunt Esther twitched in her chair, her face stern, her anguish visible. She took an antacid tablet from her pocket and started chewing on it.
“I’m going to be an uncle,” Avi said, giggling.
Ella held Jeannette’s hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “You can always tell us the truth. You know that, right? We’ll stand by you no matter what.”
“Mom, will you please stop that?” Jeannette snapped as she pulled her hand away. “This has nothing to do with pregnancy. You’re embarrassing me.”
“I was just trying to help,” Ella responded calmly, calmness being a state she had been lately finding harder and harder to achieve.
“By insulting me, you mean. Apparently the only way you can see Scott and me getting married is me being knocked up! Does it ever occur to you that I might, just might, want to marry this guy because I love him? We have been dating for eight months now.”
This elicited a scoff from Ella. “Oh, yeah, as if you could tell a man’s character in eight months! Your father and I have been married for almost twenty years, and even we can’t claim to know everything about each other. Eight months is nothing in a relationship!”
“It took God only six days to create the entire universe,” said Avi, beaming, but cold stares from everyone at the table forced him back into silence.
Sensing the escalating tension, David, his eyes fixed on his elder daughter, his brow furrowed in thought, interjected, “Honey, what your mom is trying to say is that dating is one thing, marrying is quite another.”
“But, Dad, did you think we would date forever?” Jeannette asked.
Drawing in a deep breath, Ella said, “To be perfectly blunt, we were expecting you to find someone better. You’re too young to get involved in any serious relationship.”
“You know what I’m thinking, Mom?” Jeannette said in a voice so flat as to be unrecognizable. “I’m thinking you’re projecting your own fears onto me. But just because you married so young and had a baby when you were my age, that doesn’t mean I’m going to make the same mistake.”
Ella blushed crimson as if slapped in the face. From deep within she remembered the difficult pregnancy that had resulted in Jeannette’s premature birth. As a baby and then as a toddler, her daughter had drained all of her energy, which was why she had waited six years before getting pregnant again.
“Sweetheart, we were happy for you when you started dating Scott,” David said cautiously, trying a different strategy. “He’s a nice guy. But who knows what you’ll be thinking after graduation? Things might be very different then.”
Jeannette gave a small nod that conveyed little more than feigned acquiescence. Then she said, “Is this because Scott isn’t Jewish?”
David rolled his eyes in disbelief. He had always taken pride in being an open-minded and cultured father, avoiding negative remarks about race, religion, or gender in the house.
Jeannette, however, seemed relentless. Turning to her mother, she asked, “Can you look me in the eye and tell me you’d still be making the same objections if Scott were a young Jewish man named Aaron?”
Jeannette’s voice needled with bitterness and sarcasm, and Ella feared there was more of that welling up inside her daughter.
“Sweetheart, I’ll be completely honest with you, even if you might not like it. I know how wonderful it is to be young and in love. Believe me, I do. But to get married to someone from a different background is a big gamble. And as your parents we want to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”
“And how do you know your right thing is the right thing for me?”
The question threw Ella off a little. She sighed and massaged her forehead, as if on the verge of a migraine.
“I love him, Mom. Does that mean anything to you? Do you remember that word from somewhere? He makes my heart beat faster. I...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0143118528 . Seller Inventory # Z0143118528ZN
Book Description Penguin Books. Condition: New. 0143118528 This is an International Edition. Brand New, paperback, Delivery within 6-14 business days, Same Contents as U.S Versions, ISBN and Cover design may differ. Choose Expedited shipping for delivery within 4-7 business days. We do not ship to PO Box, APO,FPO Address. We may ship the books from multiple warehouses across the globe, including India depending upon the availability of inventory storage. Customer satisfaction guaranteed. Seller Inventory # AU_9780241972939
Book Description Paperback. Condition: NEW. This is an International Edition Brand New Paperback Same Title Author and Edition as listed. ISBN and Cover design differs. Similar Contents as U.S version. Delivery within 3-7 business days. We can ship to PO Box address in US. We may ship the books from multiple warehouses across the globe including Asia depending upon the availability of inventory. Printed in English. Customer satisfaction guaranteed. Choose expedited shipping for Express delivery. Tracking number provided for every order. Seller Inventory # US_9780241972939
Book Description Penguin Books. Condition: New. 0143118528 This is an International Edition. Brand New, paperback, Delivery within 6-14 business days, Same Contents as U.S Versions, ISBN and Cover design may differ. Choose Expedited shipping for delivery within 4-7 business days. We do not ship to PO Box, APO,FPO Address. We may ship the books from multiple warehouses across the globe, including India depending upon the availability of inventory storage. Customer satisfaction guaranteed. Seller Inventory # AU_9780143118527
Book Description 2011. PAP. Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Seller Inventory # IB-9780143118527
Book Description 2011. PAP. Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Seller Inventory # VP-9780143118527
Book Description Penguin Random House. Condition: New. Brand New. Seller Inventory # 0143118528
Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0143118528 BRAND NEW, GIFT QUALITY! NOT OVERSTOCKS OR MARKED UP REMAINDERS! DIRECT FROM THE PUBLISHER!|0.66. Seller Inventory # OTF-S-9780143118527
Book Description Penguin (Non-Classics). PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0143118528. Seller Inventory # Z0143118528ZN
Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0143118528. Seller Inventory # Z0143118528ZN