Sunday, April 29, 2012


So, a couple of Tuesday afternoons ago I headed over to Barnes & Noble in The Pruneyard.  Since Tuesday is when the new books hit the bookstores (and ereaders), I like to go in and check out what's new.  Even though I'm on quite a few author email lists, I will oftentimes find a surprise or two.  Lo and behold, at a table right near the front door, is a young man sitting with stacks of hardcovers and paperbacks.  He looks like he's still in college, but he is an author.  As many of you know, I make it a practice to buy books from authors I run into at bookstores.  It is also my practice to introduce myself to them, give them a Booksage card (you should see the joy in their faces!), and promise to read and blog about the book.  I have read a number of books that I would have never read because of this practice:  female teen fantasy, paranormal, Amish lit, and erotic romance.  This latest book, The Oracle of Stamboul, by Michael David Lukas, is, once again, a book that I wouldn't think to pick up and read.  Boy am I glad I did.

The storyline is unique.  Eleonora Cohen is born to a Jewish carpet merchant in a small town on the Black Sea in 1877.  It is very clear early on that she is a prodigy.  When she is 8, circumstances dictate that she and her father make a visit to a Istambul, where she comes to the attention of the sultan, who is the supreme leader of the Ottoman Empire.  Does this sound like a book that you would be interested in reading?  Maybe not.  But unless you're committed to reading only mysteries, do not dismiss this book because of its premise.  This is a beautifully written book.  In fact, when I create my 4th edition of Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader, this might have to be on it.  I absolutely loved it.  It's magic.

I'm going to do something now that I have never done in my blog.  I'm going to quote 3 passages that show how incredibly effective Michael is in his analogies.  The book is filled with them, but I'm pulling out 3.  I could have included several dozen.  Look how vividly he paints a picture:

"Mrs. Damakan pronounced her name with care, as if it were an inscription etched into the back of an amulet."

"She had expected it to be locked, but it gave easily, and there, like a nest of birds hidden at the back of a clerestory, was a stack of letters tied neatly with a string."

And, referring to a flock of birds, "A swath of purple against a bright orange sky, it contracted, then expanded, like an ethereal lung."

Now, never mind that I don't know what the heck a clerestory is, this is some excellent writing.  Every time I saw the word "like," I got excited because I knew another analogy was coming up.  In my dotage, I'm beginning to like books that are unusual, well-written, and not typically mainstream.  Who knew?

Michael's background in his young life is almost as interesting as the book.  He was a Fulbright scholar in Turkey, a proofreader in Tel Aviv, and a rotary scholar in Tunisia.  Now, he's an author living in Oakland, only a couple of miles from where I grew up.  Oftentimes serendipity comes along.  I feel that this is what happened to me on that Tuesday.  I can't imagine not having read this book, and I'm excited for when his next one comes out.  It may be a couple of years away, but I know that I'll be among the first in line to buy it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Book Sage, for posting this review. I share your enthusiasm. I burned through the first reading, devouring the prose. The second reading was to gain insight into how Mr. Lukas put it together, why it affected me the way it did--much what you experienced. I'd read everything on the 'net about Michael in preparation for a three morning session he did on short fiction at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference ( at the end of July last year. He's as effective and insightful a teacher as he is an author, and is writing a book with the working title of The Jews of Cairo.