Two Green Ot­ters

Buket Uzuner Alexan­der Dawe, trans­la­tor Milet Pub­lish­ing Soft­cover $14.95 (274pp) 978-1-78508-087-6

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

Dar­ing nar­ra­tive styles and bursts of phi­los­o­phy make the maybe-love story within Two Green Ot­ters a fas­ci­nat­ing trip.

Buket Uzuner’s Two Green Ot­ters is a story of love and en­nui in which a mys­te­ri­ous pro­tag­o­nist strug­gles to com­mit to af­fec­tion de­spite the risks it car­ries. This crisp and sur­pris­ing novel calls into ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of any story de­clared to end with a hap­pily-ever-af­ter.

Nilsu feels un­done by her par­ents’ di­vorce, and in­ca­pable of los­ing her­self to love then af­ter. She strug­gles to ac­cept her fa­ther’s new re­la­tion­ship with the wise Se­len, even as Se­len rises in her af­fec­tions as the woman she’d most love to em­u­late. She works to for­give her fa­ther, even though she con­sid­ers her mother more re­spon­si­ble for the fam­ily’s sui­cide. And she lies to her first love, Mike, to se­cure him to her, a trick that proves ef­fec­tive even when he drifts from so­ci­ety at large. Each vul­ner­a­ble ut­ter­ance is, to her, an in­ferno, and even fall­ing for the un­par­al­leled Teo­man—a fiery lib­eral of the most se­duc­tive or­der—wor­ries her with its risks.

Nilsu’s story oc­curs against an in­ter­est­ing back­drop, as it is set in an Is­tan­bul in flux, where those who defy the sta­tus quo are al­ways at risk of be­ing “dis­ap­peared.” It also oc­curs within a shift­ing con­text. Her nar­ra­tive is chan­neled through a ghost­writer, who is given loose leafs of com­puter pa­per and is asked to draw a novel from them. In­trigued, the writer does so, only to find her­self with­out a sat­is­fac­tory end­ing at the bot­tom of the pile, and com­pelled to chase the truth among those named within.

Uzuner’s story is so at once about Nilsu find­ing love, and about whether some­one like Nilsu— lib­er­ated from so­cial con­ven­tions, wracked with cyn­i­cism, and cush­ioned by the care of those who drink lit­er­a­ture like medicine—can even ex­ist. It thwarts con­ven­tion­al­ity, and then re­con­sti­tutes it with wind­ing doubts; it re­luc­tantly con­cludes that love is ul­ti­mately pos­si­ble, and then un­der­mines its own hard-won vic­to­ries.

Dar­ing nar­ra­tive styles and bursts of phi­los­o­phy make the maybe-love story within Two Green

Ot­ters a fas­ci­nat­ing trip, and as it weaves in and out of hope and de­spair, its ques­tions prove to be both peren­nial and tragic.

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