Professional Reviews

The Word Not Spoken begins as a smart, lively introduction to Turkish custom, geography and human rights issues threaded through a tender, carefully wrought love story. But that’s only the beginning. As the plot thickens, the story evolves into a sophisticated and satisfying double-layered narrative that poses questions about human action, intention, and the requirements for honest love. This is one impressive book, made stunning by the fact that it is a debut novel.  The people, places and conundrums of Turkey will lodge under your skin forever.

– Jean Lenihan, Los Angeles Times arts writer


The Word Not Spoken brought back much of what I observed during my stay in Turkey as a Kurdish refugee from Iran in the late 1980s: the wonders of Göreme, the breathtaking sites of Istanbul, the fear of the secret police throughout the country, and the hardship the Kurds had been enduring for decades.  Reading it I remembered, sighed, cried, became upset and worried, but at the same time, laughed, and above all, hoped that one day truth, justice and freedom may prevail in Turkey.

This is a brilliant novel that dives deep into the psyche of its characters and paints scene after scene of Turkey and Kurdistan’s rich and distinctive identities. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

– Jaffer Sheyholislami, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, School of Linguistics and Language Studies Carleton University


Laurie Fraser (Osaka-fu, 1997-98) is a writer and traveler who married a Kurd in Turkey in the 1990s. The experience inspired The Word Not Spoken, semi-autobiographical debut novel that blurs the line between reality and fiction, casting light on a tumultuous period in history through the eyes of those who experienced it firsthand.

The conflict between the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and the Turkish Armed Forces has its roots in the First World War and continues to have repercussions for the region to this day. But beyond these grand struggles are the quiet moments in between: The ordinary challenges and trivial frustrations of everyday life, and the more overarching issues of culture and religion, which Fraser approaches with a genuine curiosity and gentle humor that forms the emotional core of her book.

-Rafael Villadiego for JQ magazine. See the interview here.


In “The Word Not Spoken”, Laurie Fraser shows her love of the Turkish people, culture, and country.  It is obvious that she has spent time there and cares for the people and for the human rights for all the people who inhabit this land.

Leigh is a 32 year old Canadian who is unhappy with her life and seeks adventure.  She immediately falls in love with the land, the customs, and the people of Turkey. She also falls in love with Ahmet, a Kurd who is a little wild and free and who is working to improve the conditions for his people in their own country.

Fraser shows us the lives of the characters she has written. Even when the non-Turkish characters like Leigh do not necessarily agree with some of the customs, you can see the respect she has for them and the people.

There is love, adventure, suspense, humor, and sadness in this novel.  The writing is clear and concise and keeps us turning the page.  The love between Leigh and Ahmet is lovely and frustrating. I am very much a Western girl and have a hard time understanding how any modern woman could live with these customs, but I did really get how she (Leigh and Fraser) had a love and understanding for this place and the people.  She brought more understanding to light for me.

Graded out of 5:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

 Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

 Plot and Story Appeal: 4

Character Appeal and Development: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 5

-Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Book Awards, 2014


A Canadian’s Journey into the Kurdish Struggle: A Review of The Word not Spoken




TORONTO, Canada—When a Canadian backpacker arrives in Turkey, she has no idea that meeting a charismatic Kurd will change her life forever.
That is the gist of Laurie Fraser’s debut novel, The Word Not Spoken, a semi-autobiographical story taken from bits of her own life: the Canadian married a Kurd in Turkey in the 1990s.
In the book, Fraser tells the story through Leigh, her main character who falls deeply for the handsome, unpredictable and reckless Ahmet, a Kurd who communicates fluently with tourists, finds them places to stay and sells them carpets. It is only after their rushed marriage that Leigh finds her husband is a freedom fighter, a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ahmet uses the opportunity with tourists to educate them about Kurds and the human rights abuses in Turkey, and he encourages foreign journalists to write about the Kurdish cause. When he sees Turkish police in Istanbul beating a Kurdish man for money, he does not hesitate to step forward, yell at the officers and threaten them, acting as if he is “somebody” and has some power. He is able to save the Kurd, and when Leigh asks why, Ahmet only responds: “Look around. Do you see someone can help? No.”
 Laurie Fraser
Although at first completely opposed to violence, witnessing the Kurdish situation in Turkey helps Leigh understand how a group of powerless people can be left without any resource but violence in order to attract the world’s attention to their destitute state. The book, however, does not shy away from calling this “a dirty war” or “a poor man’s war.” Leigh gains new insight into a situation coldly dismissed by the rest of the world.
“She figured she’d finally begun thinking Turkish because violence seemed acceptable in certain circumstances; she’d been typically Canadian, blanketly opposed to all violence… It was fear that led to violence, she understood now, and Canadians didn’t know much about fear.”
The captivating novel with its deftly crafted descriptions recounts transformations and epiphanies. Leigh witnesses that traveling from western Turkey to the Kurdish region in the east is like traveling from a first-world to a third-world country.
A few days after her wedding she runs into a group of Kurds whose village has been burnt by the Turkish army. Now homeless and hungry, they have camped in the middle of nowhere, drenched under the rain, with no warm clothes.
“Children crowded close. They stared at Leigh, and Leigh stared back at them from her wet foam seat. Their faces and clothes were filthy. Hair stood straight out or up in tangled clumps. One little boy with a cleft lip grinned widely at her. His feet were bare and he was ankle-deep in the cold mud. A white tooth stuck out of his cleft lip. His oversized suit jacket reached to the ground. She grinned back.”
Later, Ahmet asks Leigh: “Do you see where guerrillas come from?” Leigh responds, “An inhumane place.” It is after seeing this that Leigh changes. “He had shown her his work, his good reason to be brave. She would be there for him, she knew, no matter what.”
The Word Not Spoken is vivid and engaging. The 600-page book takes the reader by the hand, inside Turkish society, to experience Leigh’s culture shock in Cappadocia, where she has no oven or hot water. Readers can relate to Ahmet’s passionate fight for freedom — despite his family’s assimilation – and see his insane courage, his impenetrable faith, his weakness and peculiarities. The author does not judge Ahmet, Leigh or other characters. Rather, they are presented with their complexities and contradictions and readers are left alone to make their own inferences.
With strong action, a beautiful interplay between fiction and reality, The Word Not Spoken awes readers, evoking tears and laughter.  While a romantic adventure, the book is an exploration of the culture and politics of Kurds and Turkey. The strong attraction keeps Ahmet and Leigh together, despite their cultural gaps and diverse personalities.
The dialogue is written in the imperfect language skills of people for whom English is a foreign language, lending authenticity to the book. The distinct voices of characters allow readers to identify the speakers before reaching the end of the line.
Fraser is a poet, novelist and educator based in Ottawa, Canada. Although the book is a novel and not a memoir, readers never know where fiction takes over from the author’s real life experiences.
The end result is a book that is political, suspenseful, romantic and humorous.

To learn more about the writer or to purchase your copy visit

This article was originally published at by Ava Homa



Three cardamom pods bob in my glass of green tea. I ask Ottawa author Laurie Fraser what the Canadian Kurdish community’s reaction has been to her novel The Word Not Spoken. This love story of sorts is loosely based on Fraser’s own experiences backpacking in Turkey in the mid-1990s where she met and married a Kurdish man, the character in the novel named Ahmet.

Laurie Fraser.

Simply put, the novel describes their adventures and misadventures together. In doing so, Fraser weaves a delicate and complex tale in a physical, emotional and political environment rife with conflict, happiness and sorrow.

Sitting across the table from me at Ariana’s, Fraser says that members of the Kurdish community here in Canada have told her that reading the book takes them home for a visit. And one Kurd pointed out, “Some of the things you wrote about are good and some are bad, but all of it is true.”

A central theme in the book is just that- “truth”. In a discussion between the main character, Leigh, and Ahmet, Ahmet says:

“Facts are not important. Truth is important.” Leigh responds by saying “They’re the same thing.” And Ahmet replies with “Truth is the real things.”

The novel is about real things, real struggles. And “the truth” surrounds those things: Leigh’s struggle to fit in and to not fit in – keeping her Canadian-ness while adopting Turkish/Kurdish ways, or at least an understanding of them; the struggle the Kurdish people still face today; and the struggle of genders.

“This was exactly why Ahmet got so angry the time she slammed the door after him. He wasn’t used to women showing negative emotions; he didn’t know how to handle it. Ahmet wasn’t used to opposition in the house either. These women did not argue. No wonder her questions ‘ate his brain’.

She sighed and looked up at the ceiling. God, even the women oppressed each other.”

LaurieFraserBut it is more than that and not that at the same time. It depends on which lens you use to look at things, what perspective you take. These are human issues people experience everywhere, the difference, perhaps, is a question of degree.

The struggle women face, be they in the West (read the context around recent high profile “alleged” sexual abuse cases), elsewhere in the developed and developing parts of the world (even using those terms is loaded), are in one way not entirely different from those the women in the novel face. It is about the struggle to put food on the table, clothes on your back, basic human struggles, with dignity and respect, with love and with hate.

The novel is not without some special moments. One particularly poignant passage had me reading over and over before continuing:

“Darkness brings down masks everywhere, and the women were feeling loose. They allowed their scarves to fall back, and the wind played with freed hair. They smoked. The husband remained at the water tap and harassed the children.

One woman went down the rickety rust slide on a dare. Shrieking from the top, she slid slowly, her clothes billowing out behind her. A second woman bounded up the shaky steps of the slide and followed her. Leigh watched the silliness with a smile. It was a rare and beautiful sight to see these women carefree. Their hands weren’t working at all, not even on crochet.”

On her website, Fraser has posted excerpts from the book and a slideshow of photos, from her time in Turkey, showing places mentioned in the book. The images add a special context to the reading of the novel, although having the photos in the book itself would have been neat.

Some books you can barely finish. Some you read and are satisfied, or not. Then there are those few books you read and want to read again, maybe not right away, but you know you will. Fraser’s is one of those books I know I will read again.

The Word Not Spoken will make a neat holiday gift. The book is available as an e-book and as a softcover. Several local independent bookstores carry it.

by John Olsthoorn, Apt. 613