Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ali & Ramazan book review {Mags Life Today a.k.a. Finding Myself}

Today's entry comes from Maggie. I wish I could just sit and read like she does. My mind wanders way too much and I get distra ... ohh shiny object. Go show her some book love on her blog. (comments turned off here)   www.magslifetoday.blogspot.com
I’m totally a book nerd {you can tell by my huge glasses} and I love writing book reviews.  I also love knitting, my dog Shirley, my husband Michael, hot cups of tea & showers that are nearly hot enough to boil your skin off.  When I’m not reading, I work in finance {boring} and knit like a fiend {exciting}.  Also, Michael and I are pseudo-vegetarians and I cook nearly every meal we eat.  If you come to my blog you’ll find posts about my struggles with my weight, a lot of to-do lists, recipes & bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned on my journey.

“Ali & Ramazan” is a story about two orphan boys in Turkey.  Thankfully, this audio book was translated first, because God knows I don’t speak Turkish.  I found this book ages ago at my local library, read the back cover, and was intrigued.  But I went home without it.  Weeks later I found it again, read the back cover {again}, and decided that I needed to read this. 
See, usually I read pretty fluffy books – books that don’t hold a lot of deep meaning or require much thought.  But the back cover intrigued me enough to consider this my next audio book.  And I love an audio book because my commute to work is 45 minutes, each way, with no traffic.  But I digress…
Here is what the description of the book is on Amazon’s website: Based on a true story, this novel follows Ali and Ramazan, two boys from very different backgrounds who land in the same Istanbul orphanage. They quickly see eye to eye and fall into a loving relationship as children, bringing light to one another and to the other orphans in their dreary adopted home. Ramazan is a charmer, the school master's unfortunate favorite, the clown among the boys, and the only one with access to the world outside the orphanage's walls. He takes na├»ve, sweet, and quietly intelligent Ali under his wing, and together they blossom in a world all their own. However, at age 18 they are released into the streets of Istanbul to find their own way without the support of the state. Faced with an unaccepting world in which they have no one but each other, Ali and Ramazan each make choices that cannot be reversed, with tragic consequences.”  This is not what the copy I picked up at the library had as its description but that’s ok.
So now on to the review.  First, I was totally impressed with Christopher Lane’s reading of this.  There are so many Turkish words and pronunciations in this book that I’m positive that if I had been asked to read it nothing but pure nonsense would have come out of my mouth.  And Mr. Lane did a great job on the voices for Ramazan and Ali, making them completely different and really bringing out their character traits just with his voice. 
Ramazan has been at the orphanage all his life – so much so that he makes up stories about how his parents are famous movie stars and that they are going to come and pick him up any day.  He was left at the orphanage as a baby and so he accepts his lot there as normal.  The other boys look up to him, and he is their ‘ring master’.  He’s charming and charismatic and the master of the orphanage is overcome with desire for him. 
Thus, Ramazan enters into a damaging sexual relationship with the master of the orphanage.  Master has a wife and two daughters, and yet he creates his entire world around Ramazan.  Where master goes, Ramazan must go.  And the orphanage they all live in is full of filth, bugs, germs, you name it.  It’s nasty, the master is nasty, and the whole situation is just deplorable.
Suddenly, Ali arrives at the orphanage.  He’s an Arab, much darker skinned then the rest of the boys, and studiously clean.  Ramazan immediately dominates Ali, making Ali call him “boss”, which he does.  Ali is different than the other boys – he remembers his family, he is aware that no one wanted him {his mother killed his father and then killed herself and neither family wanted to take the responsibility of caring for Ali} and finds instant friendship with Ramazan.
Friendship that leads to love, and if you thought there were problems in this story at the beginning it doesn’t get any better from here.  At age 18 all of the boys are thrown out of the orphanage, leaving them to fend for themselves.  Ramazan immediately falls into prostitution as a means of supporting himself and the home he has made for himself and Ali.  Ali hates that Ramazan is a prostitute and their entire relationship degrades.  Ali falls into drugs, Ramazan hooks up with some bad dudes, and the book ends badly.
What disturbed me the most about this book is that it was based on a true story.  There was so much reality written into it.  It mostly takes place sometimes around 1992, which is when I was 10 years old.  I can’t even imagine the horror these two boys would have faced at such tender ages. 
This book was gritty and real in a way that many books aren’t.  Not so long ago I wrote a review on a book called “The Chosen One” and to me these books are very similar.  I do recommend “Ali & Ramazan”, but know that it’s a twisted story that will make your heart hurt.