05 October, 2021

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - [Book Review]


Book Details:

Title: The Tiger's Wife 

Author: Tea Obreht

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

Publisher: Random House

Print length: 353 pages

Source: A copy from the local library

Blurb :

Weaving a brilliant latticework of family legend, loss, and love, Téa Obreht, the youngest of The New Yorker’s twenty best American fiction writers under forty, has spun a timeless novel that will establish her as one of the most vibrant, original authors of her generation.

In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.

Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weeklytrips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

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My Review :

The tiger's wife is narrated by Natalia, an aspiring young doctor who is inspired by her Grandfather who is a doctor as well. The death of her Grandfather and the stories she heard from him before his death make her dig more into his Grand Father's life and his childhood. 

She comes across many mysterious stories and superstitions where she works with her friend Zora at an orphanage. 

What's great?

I loved the stories narrated by her grandfather to Natalia. The narrative is interesting. The story of Deathless man also gives a good philosophy on love, life, and death. The deaf-mute girl making friends with a tiger and finding solace is heart-touching. 

The characterization is deep and thorough.

Liked some great quotes from the book:

" In the end, all you want is someone to long for you when it comes time to put you in the ground."
"...fear and pain are immediate, and that, when they're gone, we're left with the concept, but not the true memory--why else...would anyone give birth more than once?"

What might have been better?

The narrative shifting between present, past, and between characters of deathless man, grandfather, Natalia, the tiger's wife all make it really confusing. The organization might have been better.

The story seems like ended abruptly. The climax is not satisfying enough and the ending is confusing. 

My Rating:


About the Author:

Téa Obreht 
was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty and included in the National Book Foundation’s list of 5 Under 35. Téa Obreht lives in New York.

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