Sophia Johnson, October 4, 2011 (view all comments by Sophia Johnson)
Beautiful, dark, intense, magical. The only trouble with this book was that I couldn't read it at night because that is how sad it is; that is how tersely she deals with the morose and the tragic. But that is how some of us deal with our loss, and we may have to sort through the collective mysteries of our pasts to come to find some peace. A fresh voice; I look forward to reading more of Obreht's work in the future.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Elliott Blackwell, August 8, 2011 (view all comments by Elliott Blackwell)
An amazingly accomplished first novel. I've read so many reviews that compare Ms. Obreht to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I found her to bear more similarities to another master, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Her use of magical realism only underscores the subject of grieving, loss, and death. Having said that, this story is a delight to read in the same way that reading a classic fable or folk tale would be. Obreht is a gifted writer with a vivid imagination that does not wander off into flights of fancy that don't connect with the material she's writing about.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
TIGER’S WIFE is a haunting, at times distressing, story set somewhere in the war-ravaged Balkans, where widely-held prejudices, superstitions, and folk-tales are interleaved with the harsh realities of ethnic-based war, including the ever-present possibilities of death. Natalie is a young doctor on a mission to render aid to an orphanage, across a newly established border since the war, which is located in a seaside town. The impetus for her story comes after an anguished call from her grandmother, where she learns that her beloved grandfather, also a doctor, has died in a remote village.
Natalie was always her grandfather’s favorite, going with him on regular visits to observe the tigers in the City’s zoo. It is in such close moments that her grandfather told of his unusual, mystical life: his deprived childhood in a small mountainous village where he as a young boy established a rapport with a brutalized young wife with an extraordinary ability to relate to animals, especially an escaped tiger that terrified the village, becoming known as the tiger’s wife; and his numerous encounters with a so-called “deathless” man after becoming a doctor. It is an elusive, though intriguing, tale from any number of perspectives, not just that it moves back and forth across time and experiences.
The writing is really quite appealing: luminous, poignant, descriptive, sensuous, insightful, etc. The author is generally not condemnatory towards the ingrained irrationalities and ignorance of the people and their customs that she comes across. However, while the various events hold interest, there is a lingering sadness that lives must be lived under clouds of superstition, fear, and cruelty. Even Natalie, rather underdeveloped as a modern woman, seems unable to escape such persistent social drag, where such subtleties as name, accent, words-chosen, etc can have large consequences. “Magical” is a term that would have to be applied loosely in describing this highly unsettled situation. Lastly, truly sad would be the possibility that this book actually describes modern-day Yugoslavia.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (3 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
Denise Morland, March 24, 2011 (view all comments by Denise Morland)
The Tiger's Wife is the story of Natalie, a young doctor in the Balkans, who has been raised in awe of her brilliant grandfather. As she was growing up he would often take her to the zoo to visit the tigers. Much later she is traveling across a war torn region to bring vaccinations to an orphanage when she learns that her grandfather has died under strange circumstances. When she begins to investigate improbable and magical stories of the tiger's wife and the deathless man begin to surface.
The Tiger's Wife is a beautiful and highly unique story told in an entirely fresh style. The tone of magical realism lurking beneath the surface of Natalia's grandfather's practical life is always perfectly balanced, just enough that you can't ignore it, but never enough to sound implausible. Natalia herself can't quite believe or disbelieve and all the while the tiger is there, a shadowy presence in every dark corner. The setting of the exotic and unknown Balkans just adds to the mystery even more.
I truly enjoyed this fantastical book. It is not often that you come across such an original voice as Tea Obreht's and I look forwarding to reading more.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Random House -
by Michal D.,
The postwar chaos in the Balkans provides the backdrop for Obreht's superbly crafted debut. A young physician seeks to unravel the mystery that surrounds both her grandfather's death and the mystifying Deathless Man he encountered throughout his adult life. Mesmerizing and wholly original, The Tiger's Wife is a profoundly rewarding read.
by Michal D.
Part mystery, part folktale, part dark fable, The Tiger's Wife is wholly original. Set in the Balkans, this atmospheric novel follows a young doctor who works in an orphanage and has just lost her grandfather. Trying to make sense of his death, Natalia begins to unravel the meaning behind twin folktales The Deathless Man and The Tiger's Wife, both unbelievable yet seemingly true that seem to be entwined with her grandfather's life and death. Told again and again to Natalia by her grandfather, these stories of his youth become her stories, as well; every opaque and muddy sentence becomes a link to her grandfather. Obreht is the youngest author named as one of the New Yorker's Best 20 Writers Under 40, as well as the National Book Foundation's Best 5 Under 35. At 25, her ability to write The Tiger's Wife is astonishing. A seasoned and mature writer would be hard pressed to match the scope and lyricism of Obreht's debut book. Moody, pensive, and shadowy, yet at the same time positively radiant, The Tiger's Wife should not be missed.
by Publishers Weekly, Starred Review,
"[A] brilliant debut…[Tea] Obreht is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right. Obreht is talented far beyond her years, and her unsentimental faith in language, dream, and memory is a pleasure."
by Library Journal, Starred Review,
"Dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, [and] muscularly written…This complex, humbling, and beautifully crafted debut from one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 is highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction."
by O: The Oprah Magazine,
"Deftly walks the line between the realistic and the fantastical…In Obreht's expert hands, the novel’s mythology, while rooted in a foreign world, comes to seem somehow familiar, like the dark fairy tales of our own youth, the kind that spooked us into reading them again and again…[Reveals] oddly comforting truths about death, belief in the impossible, and the art of letting go."
by T. C. Boyle,
"A novel of surpassing beauty, exquisitely wrought and magical. Tea Obreht is a towering new talent."
by Random House,
When The New Yorker ran an excerpt of The Tiger's Wife in its 2009 Fiction issue, it was clear an astonishing new talent had arrived in the world of contemporary fiction.
The time: the present. The place: a Balkan country ravaged by years of conflict. Natalia, a young doctor, is on a mission of mercy to an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home under circumstances shrouded in confusion. Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.
An involving mystery, an emotionally riveting family story, and a wondrous evocation of an unfamiliar world, The Tiger's Wife is a brilliant novel.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.