Book #9: The Tiger’s Wife

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Title: The Tiger’s Wife
Author: Tea Obreht
# of Pages: 338
Genre: Magical Realism/Realistic Fiction
As you may already know, I have great aspirations to someday write a novel. That “someday” has yet to be translated into actual, daily writing, which is why I have made little progress in my goal.
Tea Obreht, on the other hand, is my same age (twenty-five) and has already published her first novel to wide acclaim, her book having snagged the coveted Orange Prize, been a National Book Award Finalist, and landed itself on the New York Times Bestseller list.
Obreht, in other words, has made me feel like somewhat of a failure.
But all my (slight) jealousy aside, I really loved this book. I’m also trying to still figure out this book, but I’ll get to that part in a second.
The Tiger’s Wife tells the story of Natalia, a young doctor in the middle of a Balkan war-torn country, and the way in which she must deal with the grief of her grandfather’s passing while in the midst of a medical rescue mission. Her grandfather, a well-known physician himself, had contracted a terminal illness, a fact that only Natalia and her grandfather shared. When her grandfather mysteriously sneaks off to an unknown village in the middle of nowhere and meets his end, Natalia is left to try and piece together the mystery that remains.
Two mythical-sounding tales pervade the whole mystery of the book–the story of the deathless man and how her grandfather chanced to encounter him on three separate occasions, and the story of the tiger’s wife, which Natalia only discovers after his death. Natalia also strives to find out how Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book factors into the mystery, as her grandfather had carried a well-worn copy of it with him wherever he went.
Although the book jumped around a lot (and subsequently made it a little difficult to follow at times), I was captivated immediately by the rich descriptions and the almost-magical feel to the book. Even though the book never lapses entirely into magical realism, themes of myth and lore and truth and fiction are interwoven throughout the whole thing. It is a rare book indeed that leaves me puzzling over it for days (perhaps months) after–and this is definitely one of those books.
Just to give you a quick glimpse into the beautiful prose, here’s a short excerpt:
“Eventually, my grandfather said: ‘You must understand, this is one of those moments.’
“‘What moments?’
“One of those moments you keep to yourself,’ he said.
“‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘Why?’
“‘We’re in a war,’ he said. ‘The story of the war–dates, names,who started it, why–that belongs to everyone. Not just the people involved in it, but the people who write newspapers, politicians thousands of miles away, people who’ve never even been here or heard of it before. But something like this–this is yours. This belongs only to you. And me. Only to us.”
If you’re looking for a captivating story and a bit of a challenge to wake up your summer mind, then check this out. I promise you won’t regret it.
My Rating: 5 stars
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