Monday, March 28, 2011
Book Review: "The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht
Sometimes I just have to read a book that's completely being hyped as the next great thing, just to see how much my opinions differ from the literary world's. After reading 25-year-old Téa Obreht's highly praised debut novel, The Tiger's Wife, I can most assuredly say this one is worth the hype. This book weaves together the literal and the mythical, it makes you think and it tugs a bit at your heartstrings.
War is raging in an unknown Balkan country. Natalia is a doctor, traveling with her childhood friend to another war-torn Balkan country, to immunize and treat children in a local orphanage. During the trip, Natalia learns that her beloved grandfather, in whose footsteps she followed by becoming a doctor, died unexpectedly, in a strange city. As she tries to figure out exactly what happened and why he was there to begin with, she begins remembering many of the stories he told her through her life, stories of people in the town where he grew up, including the tiger's wife, as well as the story of the deathless man. At the same time, people in the town where she is working are obsessed with another story, the idea that until a body is recovered from where it was buried, it will make all of his family members ill.
Obreht has created some phenomenally complex and vivid characters. Natalia's grandfather reminded me a little of my grandfather, for reasons I can't quite explain, and I found myself completely captivated by the different stories her grandfather shared. The book flows back and forth between present and past, and both narratives work very well. While not knowing exactly where or when the actual story takes place (or her grandfather's stories) is a little disconcerting, it doesn't take away from the appeal of the book. I really am glad I chose to read this, as it's a book that will stay in my head for some time to come.