BOOK REVIEW: The Turkish Lover

By Annamarya Scaccia (, 2005)

Title: The Turkish Lover
Author: Esmeralda Santiago
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Publish Date: 2005
Pages: 347

Not all erotic books have to be overtly sexual. Some can entrance you with stunning metaphors and sweet nostalgia and keep you marvelously entertained. The Turkish Lover, a memoir by Esmeralda Santiago, is just that type of book to maintain your interest without bearing breasts, waists, crotches or expensive dialogue about positions and addictions.

Of course, The Turkish Lover is void of any physical encounters that would make a reader squirm in their seat. Instead, Santiago does well by remaining reserved, only hinting at the exploits that “Chiquita” and her Turkish lover, Ulvi, may engage in. Her pulsating desire to be independent, the gripping confinements of their traditional love and the stifling control of her overprotective mother are all told with certain sensuality–her passion to be free bursting through the barriers and obstacles she had stumbled through. The Turkish Lover is persistent and it is wonderful–highly recommended for those searching for mental stimulation.

The Turkish Lover follows Esmeralda–or, as she is known in the beginning “Chiquita”–as she boards a plane with her new love Ulvi. Traveling to Florida to take up residence, Ulvi promised Chiquita that he will “teach her many things,” always keeping her right under his thumb. Much older than Chiquita, he knows, although never admitted, that he has control over her. At this point, Chiquita is young and still in her shell, so Ulvi knows she is susceptible to his love, to his control. However, Chiquita slowly, but surely, evolves, gaining her own emotions, her own thoughts and her own voice, done so through the empty blankets when Ulvi travels to Europe for “big opportunities.” It is during these times when Esmeralda is breaking through Chiquita, finally enjoying the spotlight.

But, Ulvi and Chiquita’s relationship was far beyond fair or normal. Through the seven years of their courtship, there had been breakdowns, breakups, violence, accusations and tears. Each page proved how desperate love–their love–can be and how, no matter the wrong turns and exits signs, it is difficult to break apart from someone who so much time was invested in. Eventually Esmeralda rips through Chiquita’s vulnerability and leaves Ulvi, even if he was the one walking out the door. Distraught over the ending, Esmeralda mourns for days but, underneath it all, realizes what was for the best. Esmeralda needed to be free and Ulvi wasn’t letting her do that.

The Turkish Lover is an enjoyable read and will stir a milieu of emotions while reading it. It is, however, not the type of book that will make the reader moan, but rather cry, rejoice and feel a surge of sexiness. The detailed and descriptive words of Santiago are robust and vivid, coming from a place of respect and sensation. Her words flow smoothly and invoke passion, with the turn-on factor being the way she writes. The Turkish Lover is not a quick fix, but it will linger mentally for a while.


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