cover image The Four Humors

The Four Humors

Mina Seçkin. Catapult, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64622-046-5

Grief is the point of entry for this perceptive debut from Seçkin, the story of a young Turkish American college student’s complicated summer in Istanbul. Sibel, the daughter of immigrants, visits Istanbul before her senior year, ostensibly to help her paternal grandmother, who has Parkinson’s. She is there with her blond American boyfriend, Cooper, a helpful, culturally sensitive type who quickly becomes of a favorite of Sibel’s large, opinionated extended family. Sibel, on the other hand, is increasingly irritated by him, particularly as he nags her to visit the grave of her father, who died unexpectedly the previous winter. But Sibel has found it difficult to grieve a man with whom her relationship was difficult, and who, as she comes to discover, was keeping some pretty hefty secrets. Seçkin moves with poise from Sibel’s modern-day, deadpan tone to the stories of her older relatives, which are related as stand-alone narratives and are often entangled with Turkey’s tempestuous political history. The grandmother is particularly well drawn, with her “giant beige bras drying out on the laundry rack,” her habit of watching soap operas, and her secrets. Things unfold at a measured pace, with a fairly straightforward plot that’s low on suspense. Like many debuts, this packs a lot in, with varying degrees of success. At its heart, though, it’s a moving family story. (Nov.)