BREAK MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU? or a review of Migrating Bird by Elif Shafak

Okay, this is not a regular review, it’s a cool review. Also, it’s a short story but I had to review it, because of feelings! In this unusual review, I’d like to talk about is Migrating Bird by Elif Shafak from the short story anthology Reader, I Married Him. RIMH is edited by Tracy Chevalier and is a hodgepodge of short stories from some of literature’s best female authors, (so naturally I had never heard of 3/4 of these writers, a true story) who write stories that are inspired by the infamous line, reader, I married him from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Being the book addict that I am, I have not read Jane Eyre, partially because it’s a classic and I don’t often find myself inclined to read classic books, because more often than not they turn into a mess like Moby Dick. I do want to read Jane Eyre one day soon, but that is a list for another day.

I absolutely adore Elif Shafak. Hands down, no questions asked, Elif is my favorite adult fiction author, and one of my favorite authors in general. I’ve rated all her novels (at least the ones I’ve read so far) five stars, and I will read anything that woman writes. Seriously, Elif Shafak is amazing. Thus I had expectations. But then again, short stories are hard when they aren’t attached to some long piece of literature in which case one already knows the character and has an emotional attachment. I gave this a rating of 4 stars because I am a cesspit of bitterness.


So Mihrimah thoughts. On a complete side note, this is based on a pun my friend and I created. But I just realized that this would have been the perfect, and I mean perfect pun opener for my review of Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice because one of the characters was Mihrimah Sultan. Missed opportunity and I’m so upset I just realized this epic pun.

This book should be titled, Reader, I almost married him. Or Reader, I wanted to marry him but he was a jerk and didn’t have the same feelings. Basically, this book was very true to Elif Shafak’s approach to happy endings. They simply don’t exist!

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I appreciate that Elif doesn’t try to do bullshit endings, but that ending felt like I was being bullshitted. Ironic, right?

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I didn’t read any of the other stories in this collection, but when you see a title like Reader, I Married Him, it gives you certain expectations. For example, you would expect every story to end up with the couple getting married, or engaged at the very least. You expect a happy ending. But, naturally, we don’t get all of that in Migrating Bird.

MB follows a young female Turkish University Student by the name of Ayla. The entirety of the story is like a total of 11 pages, yet it still packs a very emotional punch for reasons explained above. I really could have used an entire 400-page novel that developed Ayla as a character, and the plot. Ayla lives at home with her parents and sister and attends the local university. Ayla’s parents are quite religious, they pray, wear headscarves, they don’t drink, or even have a television.

But I really liked Ayla, and her representation, even though I don’t think she exactly wore a hijab.


Then we have Gerard, the Dutch exchange student, who is Ayla’s love interest. Gerard is Christian, which seeing as Ayla’s family is Muslim, you can already see a problem. At first, Ayla is very cautious of Gerard, despite his friendly attempts, that include some badly pronounced Turkish, and a hand shake. Due to her status as an unmarried young woman, she is not allowed to be touched until she is married or something, it wasn’t inherently clear to me. But as time goes on she starts opening up and falling in love with him, despite their cultural and religious differences, then her sister finds out, and threatens to tell their parents, who would be very angry. Apparently, their father is very harsh and stern, though we never meet him in the story, or get to know why he is like this, other than he had a realization and totally changed back some years previous to this story. I also, believe that the relationship between Ayla and Gerard could have been explored more, I felt as if one moment she didn’t like him, and the next she was in love with him, and it felt like a rough transition, now I get that writing short stories is tough, and she had a limited time, but I personally would like that bit flushed out more.

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When I read the last page, I was internally screaming, THAT CANNOT SIMPLY BE THE END? PLEASE TELL ME HE COMES BACK AND THEY GET MARRIED AND EVERYTHING IS OKAY? But no, it ends, and Gerard never comes back.

I’m Humashah 100%

Okay, Gerard wasn’t my favorite ES love interest, because that will forever and always be Aziz from The Forty Rules of Love (*sobs dramatically*) but I want Ayla to be happy. This was my least favorite Elif Shafak piece of fiction, but it was still quite good. If you like Elif, I’d recommend you pick this up, and if you have read Jane Eyre, you might like the rest of collection. But if you are new to Elif Shafak by all means, please start with one of her other books, they are better. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, I have you covered, just check my Guide to Elif Shafak. Yes, more links! My best friend tells me, I am basically DJ Khaled when it comes to promotion, but I disagree because I would never name my son Asahd because it’s too close to the President of Syria.

Petyr Baeish Books  © 2017 by Tova Portmann-Bown

2 thoughts on “BREAK MY HEART WHY DON’T YOU? or a review of Migrating Bird by Elif Shafak

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