Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Almost a Turkish Soap Opera

Adel and Kamil believe they are finally taking their lives into their own hands and embarking on a journey that will bring them what they are looking for in life. Freedom to make their own choices. Life away from family and friends is not quite what they expect, however, and trouble with immigration, relationships, and figuring out what they truly want may strain bonds to the point of breaking beyond repair. 

This book gives an interesting glimpse into Turkish culture and the influence family and tradition have on young people in this society. Kamil and Adel are both feeling a bit claustrophobic at home and decide to break free. Vasquez painted their situation very well so readers could empathize with these two young men. 

Vasquez also does a good job of capturing their naivete. They expect to come to America and have their problems solved. They have been someone sheltered most of their lives by their family, and it shows when they step out on their own and realize they have no idea what they are doing. 

Adel and Kamil were a good contrast to each other. Both had very distinct personalities. Adel is the more brash and outgoing of the two while Kamil is more content to do what is expected and do his best to keep everyone happy. Adel is a bit more self-centered, which serves him well in business (although his early tactics are less than scrupulous), but hurts him in relationships. Kamil is more concerned with the happiness of those around them and often sacrifices his own desires to keep the peace. Both characters were well crafted, and many of the supporting characters, Yonka especially, were also thoughtfully developed. 

The overall plot was definitely a character driven story. There are not many "events" to push the story along. It stays more focused on the thoughts and day to day dealings of the characters. This did affect the pacing of the story, creating a slower moving story, but their was enough interest to keep readers going. Even with the story being so focused on the characters, I didn't see as much emotion as I was expecting, given the title. I think the screen-play style of writing tended to rely of the readers interpretation of the characters' reactions than the author showing as much.There were twists and turns that provided a soap opera atmosphere, but the overall chaos and emotional upheaval wasn't so intense as to be unbelievable. The ending provided a nice twist in the story, but not one that was completely shocking. 

There were a few other issues that may hold readers back. The editing was not as good as it could have been. Vasquez bounced around to different characters' points of views rather than staying with one character throughout the scene, which was sometimes confusing and distracting. The first person  and the head hopping did not always fit well, especially at the end when readers realize who is telling the story and when they are telling it. Sections of the book were choppy due to multiple short scenes in a row, which may have worked in the film version, but affected the flow in prose. The tone also had a younger feel to it than what I was expecting, which was probably due to the author trying to create a soap opera feel. Much of the book was also written more like a screen play than prose, telling the reader what they see in a scene rather than showing it through the character's eyes. This is not surprising given Vasquez's experience in film, but it may put some readers off who are not accustomed to the style. 

Would I recommend this book? While this book may not be for everyone, man readers will enjoy the well crafted cultural drama.  

Who would I recommend this book to? Those readers interested in learning about other cultures may find this interesting, and those who enjoy the soap opera style may find it entertaining as well. Dramatic readers have plenty to like with the strong characters and full storyline. 

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Almost a Turkish Soap Opera is available from Amazon