What Survives
by Phyllis M Skoy

"Why would human beings do such a thing to each other when nature was destructive enough?"

This quiet but powerful literary novel is the story of what remains when everything we cherish is ripped asunder. Adalet, a young Turkish woman, is negotiating familial and cultural expectations as an educated Muslim wife and newly expectant mother when the Avanos earthquake of November 1999 strikes. In a fateful moment, she loses both her parents, her unborn child, her physical welfare, and, ultimately, her husband, as he soon wanders off with a more glamourous lover. Adalet’s journey toward the restoration of her fragmented life begins in the village of Avanos, where she has been cast aside by her ex-husband’s family. She creates a new family bond with a blind matriarch, Fatma, and her rebellious multicultural niece, Meryem, just six years her junior. Adalet’s ravaged confidence soars by gradual degrees as she moves to Istanbul to be Meryam’s guardian at art school. Adalet’s tentative though positive relationship with an American professor ultimately leads to an epiphany amidst the rubble of the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001.

Skoy’s writing is strong, and the story flows seamlessly with good proportions of description, narrative, and action. She deftly weaves vivid impressions of characters and settings in the three worlds of Avanos, Istanbul, and New York. “Part III,” aptly called “Between Worlds,” comes to some surprising conclusions as Adalet’s love interest, a secular Jew, rejoins his family while his cousin’s disappearance and presumed death on 9/11 are investigated in New York. Adalet visits Mark with many reservations about leaving Turkey and continuing their relationship as she comes to terms with her losses and finally embraces her authentic self. Contemporary readers, both spiritually inclined and agnostic, will appreciate Adalet’s search for autonomy and her desire for balance between personal identity, career, family life, friendships, and romantic love.

A 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Short List finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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