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The Four Humors

The Four Humors

This wry and visceral debut novel follows a young Turkish-American woman who, rather than grieving her father’s untimely death, seeks treatment for a stubborn headache and grows obsessed with a centuries-old theory of medicine.

Twenty-year-old Sibel thought she had concrete plans for the summer. She would care for her grandmother in Istanbul, visit her father’s grave, and study for the MCAT. Instead, she finds herself watching Turkish soap operas and self-diagnosing her own possible chronic illness with the four humors theory of ancient medicine.

Also on Sibel’s mind: her blond American boyfriend who accompanies her to Turkey; her energetic but distraught younger sister; and her devoted grandmother, who, Sibel comes to learn, carries a harrowing secret.

Delving into her family’s history, the narrative weaves through periods of political unrest in Turkey, from military coups to the Gezi Park protests. Told with pathos and humor, Sibel’s search for strange and unusual cures is disrupted as she begins to see how she might heal herself through the care of others, including her own family and its long-fractured relationships.


“Mina Seçkin’s brilliant and understated first novel describes a young person’s quest to situate herself geographically, culturally, historically, and physiologically—to map out a place for her inner self in the world, in her family, and in her own body. Funny, heartrending, illuminating, informative, brimming with cultural specificity and human universality.” —Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

“Set in a stunning evocation of contemporary Turkey, The Four Humors is spellbinding. With sensitivity and insight, Mina Seçkin weaves the entanglements of romantic love and the complexities of familial love throughout this exploration of cultural identity. This debut novel is one for our time.” —Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of Rabbits for Food

“The Four Humors reminds us that the most startling love letters—to people, to cities, to fading times and places—are as gentle, wry, and intelligent as they are deeply felt. A beautiful, unpretending book.” —Merve Emre, author of The Ferrante Letters and The Personality Brokers

“Wise and quirky, searching and warm––a novel full of heart, alive with the humors.” —Ayşegül Savaş, author of Walking on the Ceiling

“I was completely transported by this novel—as if I’d been taken along with Seçkin’s heroine on a darkly beautiful holiday. I loved the fierce, delicate voice of Sibel—a young woman determined to uncover the mysteries of her body, as well as the mysteries of her family. Seçkin is a gifted and natural storyteller, but she’s also willing to show us the ways we use stories—of politics and history, in social media, in the bedroom, and at parties—to hide and heal. In doing so, The Four Humors offers a captivating and profound portrait of a family unmoored by secrets and love.” —Rebecca Godfrey, author of Under the Bridge

“Mina Seçkin writes about the human body in a way that is exacting and beautiful, and I am in awe at the way she pins pain onto the page . . . The narrative voice is infused with levity, generosity, and (yes) humor. The Four Humors is a gorgeous excavation of the body—its flaws and its desires—and what it means to heal.” —Katie Yee, Literary Hub

“Soulful and tender, honest, but never cruel. The Four Humors is a debut that doesn’t feel like a debut. With the wisdom of a writer beyond her years, Mina Seçkin has crafted a novel that delicately and lyrically explores the body and everything it holds—the blood, phlegm, bile, choler, all the bodily fluids and memories and generational trauma, the joy that we keep moving and breathing despite it—everything that make us the flawed, beautiful humans that we are.” —Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl

“Fans of Elif Batuman’s The Idiot should take note of Mina Seçkin’s debut The Four Humors, another wry and intelligent novel that engages with the Turkish diaspora in America. As twenty-year-old Sibel seeks relief from an unshakable headache, she ends up delving into her family history and dubious medicinal theories, all of which Seçkin captures with a mordant wisdom that belies her own young age.” —Chicago Review of Books

“Mina Seçkin’s debut novel chronicles Sibel’s attempts to understand herself, her family, and the stories her body tells about both with tenderness and grace.” —Eve Sneider, WIRED

“A funny and loving story for readers of all backgrounds.” —Emily Burack, Alma

“The Four Humors is a quiet, startling book that will stay with you long after you turn the final page. Sibel holds grief and guilt in her body, and as she reconnects with her homeland, she will uncover deep secrets and profound truths that will change her forever. Mina Seçkin has written a poignant and penetrating meditation on how we take care—of ourselves, our stories, and our families.” —Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me

“An engaging read that addresses both the Turkish diaspora and what it means to change.” —Wendy J. Fox, BuzzFeed

“In spare, funny writing, Seçkin invites us into a summer spent in Turkey with a young woman named Sibyl and her boyfriend, Cooper . . . If you’ve ever abandoned plans to study for the MCAT in favor of a lot of soul-searching, uncovering family trauma, and TV watching, come meet Sibyl.” —Jenny Singer, Glamour