Thursday, August 4, 2011
The Virgin's Knot, by Holly Payne
In mid-century Turkey, a beautiful young woman has grown up crippled by the legacy of childhood polio. But her father, her only parent, told Nurdane that when Allah takes something away, he gives something in return. So the loss of her legs, and the treasured ability to run and dance, is replaced by a legendary skill for making beautiful rugs. These prayer rugs are given to brides, which Nurdane will never be. Her latest creation is almost finished when the intrusion of a few strangers to their tiny village makes Nurdane question her deal with Allah, just as her father has made a mysterious bargain for the recipient of the remarkable rug.
Holly Payne writes The Virgin's Knot in an almost self-consciously "literary" style, forgoing quotation marks around dialogue and demanding a lot from the reader in terms of plot comprehension. The punctuation I found pretentious but the thought required to follow Nurdane's development was rewarding. I wouldn't have minded a little more explicit explanation at the end, but Payne introduces some interesting themes and, for readers willing to be patient with her, I think it's a memorable story. (Here's a nice interview with her.)