The Applicant

Grove. Feb. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780802160546. $26. F
DEBUT In Turkish-born, U.S.-based Koca’s debut, 24-year-old Leyla has recently emigrated from her native Turkey to Berlin, Germany, where she has come to study. Struggling with issues over her thesis, she works as a cleaner in a hostel, goes clubbing all night, and indulges in drugs and sex in a search for self. The narrative, written in diary format, vibrates with passion and intellectual possibilities as the reader gradually learns of Leyla’s childhood with an alcoholic father, who serves time in prison for killing someone while driving drunk, as well as a passive mother unable to cope with life. Leyla comes to realize that “wishes die slower deaths than their makers, passing on from generation to generation, wilting everything they touch.” She also discovers that writing is her safety net as she finds that no one person will be the answer to all of her needs and desires.
VERDICT Excellently written, this first work presents Leyla as an authentic individual who will not easily be forgotten, and exquisitely explores the frustrations and insights of an inquiring mind sorting out past history, boyfriends and lovers, dreams and reality. Fans of Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Call Me Zebra will appreciate.
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