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The Tiger's Wife: A Novel
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The story a young woman and the relationship she shared with her grandparents. The novel unfolds in dream-like sequences interspersed with conversations she holds with her grandparents. The novel encompasses two stories, which run concurrently, and several supporting narratives of which the author unites into the conclusion. The storyline offers an interesting premise. The author’s writing is beautiful, descriptive and full of emotion, although the tales reveal gratuitous violence and the mysticism becomes esoteric.
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on October 9, 2016
An amazing book from a very young author. The story is often disjointed, as the central narrative is interrupted by episodes narrated by or remembered from the main character's grandfather. Some readers will find this irritating, but if you're in the mood for this kind of story, it's terrific.
The setting is an unnamed country several years after the war that broke up the former Yugoslavia. The narrator, a young doctor, travels across recently-created (or reestablished) borders to retrieve her grandfather's belongings after his death.
By switching between a modern, realistic narrative and a mythical or folkloric past, the author creates a portrait of a country and a culture that has been changed, perhaps destroyed. The title story, The Tiger's Wife, is perhaps a little too filled with pathos. I think the author reveals her youth here by making the violence and the abuse the characters suffer extreme, horrific. But it's similar to the content of fairy tales (the unexpurgated versions) and meant to be symbolic of what the country and its people have lived through.
Don't expect something uplifting or saccharine. If you want to immerse yourself in the mood of Balkan tragedy, this is a great story.
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on June 21, 2017
Maybe this is a five star book and I am a three star reader. There were so many outstanding reviews that I wonder what is wrong with me? On re-read, I did give the book a third star. In some passages I liked the fantasy, but bad punctuation killed the liking. I had to do mental math to determine if some passages were here and now or in the yesteryear. I am not fond of math. The author did connect the characters' fantasy with their reality.

Thank you, Ms. Obreht, for a good read.
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on August 5, 2012
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.
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on September 30, 2012
This was an amazing blend of history, fact and mythology.
The story runs dually in the past (the grandfather's youth during WWII), and the present of granddaughter Natalia (set during the more recent Balkan conflicts).
Natalia sets out with her cousin Zóra to find out the details of her beloved grandfather's death. The locals are suspicious:
'Barba Ivan and Nada did not ask about our drive, about our work, or about our families. Instead, in order to avoid any potential political or religious tangents, the conversation turned to crops.'
The tiger of the title was a documented incident during WWII, where a zoo was bombed and the tiger walked out into the town of Galina.
In this story, the tiger becomes part of a larger dreamlike sub-plot set in the same town.
I was particularly interested in Obreht's descriptions of the aftermath of the various Balkan wars:
'The war had altered everything. Once separate, the pieces that made up our old country no longer carried the same characteristics ... of the whole. Previously shared things - landmarks, writers, scientists, histories - had to be doled out according to their new owners ...That Nobel Prize-winner was no longer ours, we named our airport after our crazy inventor, who was no longer a communal figure.'
'And all the while we told ourselves that everything would eventually return to normal' and then she proceeds to show how this cannot happen. 'His name spoke of one place, his accent of another. None of this had mattered before the war.'
The conflicts of this area are always present in this book, as they should be. Obreht's outlook is bleak, as history has shown us it should be:
'When the fight is about ... your name, the places to which your blood is anchored ... there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of of people who feed on it and are fed it ... by the ones who come before them.'
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on November 5, 2016
The mere fact that the author was only in her mid 20's when she wrote this masterpiece is astonishing enough. But until you read it, you'll never understand what a haunting work of art it truly is.

Every person and animal are struggling to stay alive from war and fear of being different--out of place with a society that's in chaos.

The writing is beautiful but not for the meek at heart. It can be quite brutal at times. I hope you're brave enough to read it anyway. It will say with you for a long time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 4, 2011
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

This book is narrated by a young woman living in some war-torn Balkan country. Her name is Natalia and she is a young doctor. She is traveling with her close friend Zora, another doctor, and their purpose is to inoculate young orphans and poor country folk.

The story goes back and forth in time, as Natalia thinks back on the fables and folklore of the area told to her by her beloved grandfather, also a doctor. The stories include the tiger's wife of the title, as well as other fantastical stories.

It is through these stories, and through Natalia's eyes that we get an idea of what it is like to have grown up in this type of atmosphere, with its war ravaged countrysides and population and with old religions and superstitions.

I thought the book had some beautiful and descriptive writing. This is a very talented author and the book is evocative and moody. I especially enjoyed the fantastical tales. In criticism, and perhaps partly due to my high expectations prior to reading the book, I thought there were bits that were quite a slow-go and overly descriptive, especially the parts that are from Natalia's point of view. I felt very distant from her and a little removed from the story.

Still, this was an interesting story and definitely left me with a feel of time and place and also important our collected beliefs our histories and our backgrounds are what make us who we are.
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on March 12, 2011
As I was reading, I wasn't sure how to interpret the more categorically magical story lines- what does it mean to have a Deathless Man? What is the meaning of this tiger that keeps appearing? Despite my surprise, I pushed onwards without too much hesitation because Obreht's language is beautiful, often humorous in its storytelling, gentle and loving in how it drew all the characters, including the mean one. Each memory is wonderfully formed, each image alive and poetic (example: "The elephant passed, slow, graceful, enchanted by the food in the young man's hand. The moon threw a tangle of light into the long, soft hairs sticking up out of his trunk and under his chin. The mouth was open, and the tongue lay in it like a wet arm").

Even after letting it sleep in my mind for a few days, the cloudy ideas keep flowing into different shapes. There are so many parallels that hint at something; anything can symbolize life or hope, survival or death. I am uncertain but I leave with the feeling the book tells the story about being forced to continue despite being caged by some fate. The doctor answers, "This war never ends... It was there when I was a child and it will be here for my children's children. I came to Sarobor because I want to see it again before it dies, because I do not want it to go from me, like you say, in suddenness."

Obreht's language and imagery captivate me. The main criticism is that the present reality about the grandaughter with the orphans and the gravedigger which is supposed to anchor the other stories came off as less engaging to me. It's possible Obreht intended this effect to emphasize the life that the past holds when compared to the present, but it seemed to me more like maybe the reality of the war torn country is too close to home to have solidified into tight writing yet.
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on March 4, 2013
** spoiler alert ** My friend Caroline picked this book to kick off our book club this year. I have always wanted to read it, saw it in all the major book stores, on all the big lists of the books you must read and its just a neat cover. It took me a little while to get into the book as I really didn't understand what it was about but what hooked me was her writing. Her imagery and writing style is just beautiful. I will definitely be reading another one of her books based just on that.

My favorite parts of the book were the stories of The Deathless Man. Throughout the book you learn about her grandfather, his childhood, his life and his experiences through the stories that he told her as she was growing up. It was very touching to learn how much she loved her grandfather and what an impact he had on her life.

What bothered me most about this book was that the tiger had no point, there was no reason for the tiger or the tiger's wife other than they had never seen a tiger before in her grandfather's village. This was a dark book and at some points violent. It was extremely interesting to read, I enjoyed it and will recommend it to others.
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on March 9, 2013
“My grandfather never refers to the tiger’s wife by name. His arm is around me and my feet are on the handrail, and my grandfather might say, ‘I once knew a girl who loved tigers so much she almost became one herself.’ Because I am little, and my love of tigers comes directly from him, I believe he is talking about me, offering me a fairy tale in which I can imagine myself – and will, for years and years.”

The tale told to his granddaughter Natalia, is a sweeping narrative of war and humanity. Though most of the book, Natalia is an adult, a young doctor in a Balkan country recovering from war. Her grandfather’s mysterious disappearance and subsequent death, leads her on a journey which includes his fantastical stories of the deathless man and brings the past into the present.

I was duly impressed with Ms. Obreht’s first novel. Her examinations of fear, superstition and death were done so in a non-morbid and completely human fashion. In addition, I appreciated the author’s presentation of the Balkan people, their enchanting culture and her ability to portray a war without taking sides. Beautifully done.
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