The Word Not Spoken

A bright and evocative love story set in the unforgettable physical, cultural and political terrain of Turkey.

In the mid-1990s, a vulnerable and impetuous Canadian backpacker falls face-flat in love with a charismatic carpet salesman while on holiday in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Despite finding herself in a drastically unfamiliar cultural landscape, Leigh feels an uncanny pull to Ahmet, who is Kurdish, and soon abandons her Western life and job to set up house in a stark, unheated cave dwelling with her new love.

Leigh doesn’t learn of Ahmet’s work as a freedom fighter until after their three-day Islamic wedding, but she copes with violence as readily as she learns to live without an oven or hot water. Ahmet’s missions mean that he is often absent, highlighting Leigh’s comical and poignant struggles to learn the rules in her new life: never throw away old bread, don’t smoke during Ramazan, open the door no matter who knocks, save nothing for tomorrow. Leigh’s gentle, naive curiosity is contrasted by the story of Jess, a different kind of white foreigner whose stubbornness and insolence forces the two women into desperate measures on several occasions.

Ultimately, it is Leigh and Ahmet’s story that propels the most spine-tingling and emotional journey. From the beginning, they tell each other stories: he romanticizes revolution and she loves a fairy tale. After they meet a miserable group of Kurdish refugees, they decide to formally write a book. Together, with the reader as witness, Leigh and Ahmet use the place between truth and lies to write the fiction of their own history. They create a suspenseful and compelling story: Ahmet details the workings of a guerrilla training camp, Istanbul’s underground and a torture centre, while Leigh records her experiences with Turkish baths and toilets, cooking from scratch, family formalities and holidays.

While their joint-narrative blossoms, reality is not as kind, and they soon face some difficult decisions.

Heart-touchingly honest, The Word Not Spoken is an elegant and powerful examination of the ideal versus the actual.

Take a trip to Turkey and fall in love — this is a warm-hearted and suspenseful look at a culture from within.