A young Turkish-American woman who, rather than grieving her father's untimely death, seeks treatment for a stubborn headache and grows obsessed with a centuries-old theory of medicine.
Twenty-year-old Sibel thought she had concrete plans for the
If stories expand us, secrets shrink us, as this deep, wise, and intricate debut novel by Mina Seçkin illustrates ... a pungent mix of politics and family dynamics ... Due to her deep grief over the sudden death of her father in their Brooklyn home the winter before, Sibel’s own temperament is underwater. As the first-person narrator, she is slyly funny and deadpan. Dialogue is delivered without quotation marks, giving the novel an interior quality. This suits the novel well, as Sibel is preoccupied not just with bile and phlegm, but also with big moral questions ... The unspooling of clues that slowly reveals this mystery woman’s identity, and the burdensome secret her grandmother has carried, form the burning, bright core of the novel ... Seçkin’s first novel is almost too loaded. But for the patient, dedicated reader, the rewards are immense. The Four Humors is a novel about connecting the dots — between people, countries, and cultures. Sibel, the aspiring doctor, realizes she doesn’t just have a body, she is a body. And she doesn’t just have a feeling, she could be the feeling ... unites and transports the reader with a throat-tugging ending, demonstrating the power of stories to expand us all.
... a deliciously bittersweet meditation on the elastic, shifting narratives we weave from the fragile threads of our daily existence, the people around us, and the places we call home ... What holds these unraveling characters together is Seçkin’s precise, direct prose, which balances the grotesque with the beautiful, the funny with the genuinely moving. With lyricism and blunt, humorous honesty, Seçkin pokes and prods at the complexities of family history and personal identity from different angles. She is especially acute in describing the discomfort of existing in bodies that not only think but consume and excrete and hold weight ... the reader is constantly reminded that life is a physical as well as spiritual phenomenon, and that, for all their loneliness, our individual lives are part of a bigger story.
... an engrossing exploration of national identity, the meaning of family and loss, and what happens when a family hides its central secret ... Seçkin demonstrates impressive skill weaving together the story of Sibel's extended family with the political violence that has marked Turkey in recent decades ... These female characters are extremely well drawn, each distinct and filled with her own mystery ... In contrast with the first three sections, the fourth section of the book, containing important revelations, moves at breakneck speed. I felt that some smoothing out of the overall pacing might have been advised. But that is a small quibble ... Read The Four Humors for an insider's travelogue of Istanbul and its volatile modern political history, and for the tastes and feel of contemporary Turkish culture. Read it too, to get to know a wonderful set of characters — women in all their flaws and generosities — and for an astute account of what it means to be an immigrant in America. Finally, read it to follow one young woman's beautifully-rendered journey into her past, so that she can wrest herself from stasis and step into her future.