Finalist, 2019 Fred Kerner Book Award
Finalist, 2019 International Book Awards (Fiction – Literary)
Upon receiving a letter and a package of journals from a dying Mehtap, her mother Nuray’s close friend in Turkey, a young Toronto woman immerses herself in the old woman’s memories. She uncovers Mehtap’s story as a factory worker in the 1960s who is infatuated with her boss, a man she willingly lies for, and even wrap presents for that he gives to his mistress and his wife. When her friend, Nuray, moves in with her, something unexpected happens and Mehtap is forced to choose between her two loves. Mehtap’s story is interwoven with that of her parents, Cretan refugees who landed in Izmir in the mid-twenties as a result of the disastrous population exchange, only to discover an inescapable and tragic truth that shatters their lives. As Mehtap’s writings unfurl, Nuray’s daughter — Mehtap’s namesake — now the keeper of the journals, notebooks and letters written by her mother’s friend, also uncovers her own mother’s deeply-held secrets, furtive yearnings, and forbidden love.
“This is a little gem of a book, full of all the tales that make us and unmake us—real and imagined ones, past and present ones. I am infatuated with the voice of our protagonist Mehtap, at times poignant, at times funny — it is totally unique and at the same time, all of us. It is a story about love, the choices we make and the choices that life makes for us.”
—Cecilia Ekbӓck, author of Wolf Winter and In the Month of the Midnight Sun
“Loren Edizel’s fiction speaks through the passage of time itself — the poignancy of what history erases and what only the written word can save. Lovingly written, Days of Moonlight reveals the passionate love and friendship of two women who embody the history and culture of a passing age, and the tender bonds of family and place.”
—Carole Giangrande, author of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
“From the first page, via two simple bracelets, Loren Edizel’s Days of Moonlight brings the reader to heartbreakingly real crossroads where desire, family secrets and the legacy of Greco-Turkish conflict all meet — and yet, thanks to the author’s concise images and considered style, the novel also succeeds in reading with the dreamy timelessness we love in the greatest myths and fables. It’s wonderful.”
—Daniel Perry, author of Nobody Looks That Young Here
“Reading this novel was like sliding into a warm bath. It’s a luminous work, a love story that spans several decades. There is also much wisdom and insight to be found along the way. Reader, you are in for a treat.”
—Morris Berman, author of The Reenchantment of the World
“A beautiful, moving portrayal of the complexities and richness of life, and love gained, lost and re-found—a poetic novel full of visceral imagery. You can hear the clinking of the tea glasses, taste the salt of the Aegean Sea, and see the red-tiled roofs of Izmir. You will be transported to Crete, Turkey and Canada where past and present comingle in the sensual and often bittersweet power of memory, and become immersed in the stories of strong women, and the women and men they love.”
—Melinda Vandenbeld Giles, author of Clara Awake
Later in the evening, in the cumba sipping our tea, we sat silently gazing across the street, over the brick rooftops at the bay of Izmir, its thick grey aquatic mass with slivers of yellow skipping here and there trying to stay afloat on the crests of small foamless waves, all unstable and shimmering, a solitary plane tree across the street crowding the left corner of the window, its majestic immobility betrayed by the leaves’ intermittent shudders and to the right, a couple of freighters in the horizon looking static, as if simply placed there, cardboard cut-outs from a black and white postcard. A vegetable vendor was pushing his cart, shouting in his sing-song cadence the names of his remaining vegetables, his deep voice echoing up and down the hushed street in the early hours of the evening. A woman at the top of the street shouted at him hoarsely. I could see her bust leaning out from a window, a cigarette dangling from her lower lip, curlers on her head partially hidden by an orange-coloured kerchief tied at the back of her neck, still in her nightgown at dusk, motioning for him to come, her flabby arms waving furiously. She disappeared and reappeared with her basket tied to a rope, asking him for the price of his eggplants. He must have said something, I could not discern it. I could only hear her telling him he had to discount it on account of it being the end of the day. “Where are you going to find another customer to take all those eggplants” she asked with nasal gruffness. She halved the price, blowing smoke from the cigarette still dangling from her lips. The vendor was already loading the long slim eggplants into her lowered basket, after weighing them, muttering his displeasure, and spitting on the ground beside his cart. But she must have been right, or he must have been tired of pushing the heavy contraption all day. She tugged on the rope q quickly, her head and the basket disappearing momentarily, and then the empty basket once again descended at the end of its rope, presumably with money. The grocer fished it out, counted it meticulously, and made a sign that all was well when she once again poked her head out of the window. I had a better view of her face this time. She had heavy cheeks that sagged from their own weight and a down-turned mouth, like Churchill’s. The grocer made his way slowly down the slope of the road to get to the stairs, where he adroitly manoeuvred his cart down one step at a time, diagonally, taking care not to move the few remaining peppers and squash until he reached the avenue and disappeared around the corner. I heard his voice, “Fresh squash and delicious green peppers,” weakening by the third announcement and then the voice of the woman with the cigarette took over, in echoes, from her apartment father away, “Aylin, get here and give me a hand! Aaylin … Ayliiin, get here, I said, and make it quick!” Who was Aylin? Nuray and I turned our heads and strained to see, but the open window remained dark. Someone somewhere turned on the radio in time for the evening play, and we listened to the wife’s shrill voice confronting her husband over some suspicion of infidelity. There were creaking doors, heavy rain, and footsteps in the following act. Ominous music hinted that the wife was going to be murdered. We sat there, unable to move, listening to a woman’s voice screaming in agony until the play was cut by a husky man’s voice announcing it was to be continued the next day.
“It was the husband who did it, I’m sure. We have to listen tomorrow.”
“No more fried eggs, please, Nuray.” I rose from my chair to make a salad. I decided we were going to eat nothing but vegetables until the trip to Istanbul, after feeling the cutting pinch of my panties’ elastic around my bloated midriff. “We have shorts to wear and so much waxing to do,” I added, the excitement of the trip waning dangerously fast as I looked at the stubble on my legs.
“Are you always like this?” She reclined in the chair and lifted the mass of hair off her nape, twisting it with her fingers. “Ready to turn every adventure into some kind of martyrdom? God almighty! What is wrong with you?”
“My underwear is pinching my guts. I’m worried I won’t fit into all those things we will have to wear in Istanbul. Okay?”
“I should have just gone alone!” She got up and stomped to the door, slamming it behind her. I heard her going down the few steps heavily and saw her light up her cigarette as she marched down the street. She blew smoke out of her nostrils and never looked back.
I wanted to run after her and say I was sorry, tell her we could eat eggs everyday, and I didn’t give a damn, just come back home, please, but I just sat there, watching her disappear around the corner. I’m not sure how long I sat in the cumba. It got dark; the streetlights came on. People got ready for bed all around the neighbourhood. Lights went out one by one. I rose from the chair and went to my room to sleep with the door slightly ajar so I would hear her entering the house. I must have fallen asleep at some point. In the morning when I awoke she was having breakfast, dressed for work and ignoring me. She took the earlier tram. I got out of the house feeling like a prisoner. Strange how the vastness of the world surrounding you, the thousands of sounds and voices, the ever-changing sights of a city can feel so narrow and stifling when you’re jilted. I suffocated and sighed all the way to work, ignored the King of Zippers when he shouted from behind the closed door of his office. “Giritli, I have news for you. Pour us some tea and come sit with me.” The King of Zippers is the love of my life. Why do I not care about his news? The thought sent me spinning down the well of melancholy that had sucked and swallowed the world’s sights and sounds earlier. My mind was now in that bare room covered with Nile-green semi-gloss paint; a tiny, small, square space with a wooden chair in the middle, surrounded by shiny walls I imagine they must have in prisons to easily wash off the blood or graffiti or other unsightly traces of previous inhabitants. A place to feel abject and forgotten. Her office is down the long hall from mine. Fifty steps, a staircase, and I’m there. If I had the courage to walk the distance and peek in, what would I see? Her head bent over the typewriter, black waves of ink descending from her scalp to cover the down-turned eyes and mouth. If she looked up and saw me there, would her anger turn into a smile? I shuddered standing at the doorway, waiting. Her clack-clack-clacking stopped abruptly. I was completely absorbed by the sight of my shoes, prepared for a storm of accusations.
“Psst!” she went, “Psst, Mehtap, don’t stand there looking foolish. Either get in or get back to your office.”
It was as easy as that. She giggled and gazed at me with that twinkle in her eyes. “Idiot!” She smiled. I burst into tears.
“Why did you walk out, huh? I was so worried something would happen to you. You’re crazy to be walking the streets at night, all alone. And your anger slices into me. Don’t ever do this again!”
“I saw how worried you were, snoring cosily in your bed!” She emitted a few neighs, twisting her head. “Next time you ruin my fun, I’m moving out. I swear.”
“I can’t help who I am. Why are you so harsh?”
“Sit down, sugar.” She motioned to the chair with an old broken typewriter on it, moving her wrist furiously, to indicate I should remove it from there.
“The boss was calling me before I got here. I have to get back.” I hesitated before moving towards the doorway.
She shrugged, “I understand we should eat more salads, fewer eggs, shave and wax and so on and so forth. But the way you say it, it’s like the world was coming to an end unless we did these things. You assassinate the excitement right out of a moment. You know? Here we were having a lovely evening, listening to a play on someone else’s radio, dreaming about Istanbul and all was fine. Why couldn’t you just get up and make that salad without any announcements, like you’re accusing me of turning you into a fat and hairy orangutan. Just wax your damn legs and eat your grapefruits all day, why should I hear about it?”
She was getting heated.
“Let’s talk about it later,” I said and walked out of the room, hurrying down the corridor. I heard her hitting the keys of her typewriter again. Patron was waiting for me in my office.