Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht

I wouldn't call myself a fan of the magical realism genre, but I think we're all drawn to fantastical stories of some sort.  In the best, such stories not only straddle our world and another, but the relationships and emotions depicted are so recognizable that "believability" becomes a non-issue. I would place Obreht's The Tiger's Wife firmly in this camp.  Through interwoven tales that take place in small Balkan towns, The Tiger's Wife shows individuals' search for truth and understanding.

The novel is centered around Natalia, a young doctor crossing the border of war-torn countries to deliver medicine at an orphanage.  On the way, Natalia learns of the recent death of her grandfather, also a doctor. In thinking of her grandfather, Natalia begins to relate two tales from her grandfather's life: that of the "deathless man" and that of the tiger's wife.

The story of the tiger's wife is alluded to from the beginning, setting up what seems to be a great mystery.  In reality, her story is less amazing than I had expected, and I'm not yet certain why her name is the title of the book.  However, one of the things I did like is the way the two central stories give rise to other stories too, like that of Luka the butcher or Darisa the Bear.

Written in a "literary" style, I expected The Tiger's Wife to be far less engrossing that it was.  Obreht's smooth and dreamy language and ability to create tension in each story kept me hooked.

Obreht's beautifully written novel addresses the nature of memory, superstition, and the stories we tell--and those we choose not to.

1 comment:

  1. The stories were interestings and well written, however there were too many of them and the author doesn't do a good job linking them all together. At the end you are left with no connections and a feeling of wasted time and talent.