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The Saint of Incipient Insanities: A Novel Hardcover – September 9, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (September 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374253579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374253578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Three graduate school roommates—a Moroccan, a Turk and a Spaniard—are strange bedfellows in a potentially inhospitable land in this painstakingly multicultural but rather discombobulated first novel in English by Shafak, a prize winner in Turkey. Set in Somerville, Mass., in 2003, the novel shifts erratically between Ömer, the Turk, who's supposed to be finishing his poli-sci Ph.D., but prefers regular sex with his American girlfriend, Gail, a suicidal, feminist chocolate maker; Abed, the pious Moroccan, who cures his nightmares by watching slasher films; and Piyu, the clean-freak Spaniard, who loves food but dates a bulimic Mexican-American who doesn't. Each character is lost in one sense or another, and the book is about their attempts to discover how they tick and for whom. There's lots of potential there, but the story is stretched too thin by extraneous characters, subplots, repetition and contrivances. Shafak strives to explain to readers what it means to be an outsider in America—"So wonderful was his azonal void, of a substance so translucent almost invisible under the veneer of anonymousness; such a consummate stranger he had become in a world of suffocating familiarities"—but her linguistic acrobatics distract rather than enlighten. This is a brave attempt at a post-9/11 story about immigrants in America, but Shafak flails in the 21st-century melting pot.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Three roommates, Omer, Abed, and Piyu, are all foreigners, studying and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Omer, a handsome party boy studying political science, has recently arrived from Istanbul, and he lands a room in the house of Abed, from Morocco, and Piyu, a dental student from Spain. Omer falls in love with the neurotic vegan lesbian Gail, and they eventually marry. Abed is a consummate worrier who must contend with his mother's visit from Morocco. Piyu is awestruck by his girlfriend Alegre's cooking, but not necessarily by her close-knit family full of watchful aunts, and unaware of the secret she herself harbors. Together, these three friends experience love, exile, and a lack of cultural identity as they forge ahead with their lives in a new land, with relationships with new people, confronting their greatest joys alongside their worst nightmares. Shafak is a prizewinning author who, until now, has written only in her native Turkish. This is her first novel in English, and she presents a masterful command of language, which she uses cleverly, humorously, and engagingly. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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More About the Author

Elif Shafak is Turkey's most-read woman writer and an award-winning novelist. She writes in both English and Turkish, and has published 13 books, nine of which are novels, including: The Bastard of Istanbul, The Forty Rules of Love, Honour and her nonfiction memoir Black Milk. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages. She has more than one and a half million followers on Twitter: @elif_safak www.elifshafak.com
Shafak blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the voices of women, minorities, subcultures, immigrants and global souls. Defying cliches and transcending boundaries her works draws on different cultures and cities, and reflects a strong interest in history, philosophy, culture, mysticism, Sufism and gender equality. Her books have been translated into more than forty languages.
Shafak is also a political scientist and has taught at various universities in the USA, UK and Turkey. She has written for several international daily & weekly publications, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent and The World Post/Huffington Post.
She was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1971. She is married with two kids and divides her time between London and Istanbul.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amjra VINE VOICE on August 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this novel the author, Elif Shafak, writes a lovely multi-cultural, multi-character, multi-language ode to immigrants and to the American, and to the graduate school, experience. We meet her characters through their own private, and sometimes excruciating, nurosises. Bulemia, depression, neurotic behavior, alchoholism all feature in the novel, but help us see the human sides of her characters rather than define them.

The book follows six main characters as they live their lives in Boston and try to define themselves through their inherited and new cultural biases. Funny at times and heartbreaking at others, the novel is a psychological journal into foreign lands.

The most striking feature of the book is the use of language and for those who enjoy not just a good story, but the inventive use of rich and flowing language, this will be an enjoyable read.

If you like this book, read also, "My Mother and the Turk" a book with a similar tone about a third generation Armenian-American family's remembered, and forgotten, past.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Another great novel from Elif Shafak, "The Saint of Incipient Insanities" is, at its core, about identity. Like Shafak's other work, it's the little things that makes it work so well--countless small details about cultural quirks, cuisines, and customs that make the characters come alive.

For me, one high point came early in the book, when Shafak talks about the disorientation of seeing one's name stripped of diacrtics (sp?) and other pronunciation marks. It's a pretty obvious metaphor for the cultural homogenization that you'll find in a melting pot like the US, but it also says something on a deeper, more personal level.

It's more of a character study than a plot-driven page-turner, but you'll probably find yourself unable to put the book down, and, like the characters, caught somewhere between East and West.

The prose is often elegant, and always penetrating. I don't want to give away too many details and spoil the book, but I've got to stress how effective it is at presenting a range of complex, original characters trying to live in a difficult world.

It's another great work from Shafak, a talented writer in any language.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth C. Olliff on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this tale of modern love, eating disorders, angst, young adulthood and assimilation a good read with a rather dissapointing ending. It felt like at the end of the story it unravelled instead of resolved. (Intentional?)
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