The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife

A Novel

Book - 2011
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal * O: The Oprah Magazine * The Economist * Vogue * Slate * Chicago Tribune * The Seattle Times * Dayton Daily News * Publishers Weekly * Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered

SELECTED ONE OF THE TOP 10 BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times * Entertainment Weekly * The Christian Science Monitor * The Kansas City Star * Library Journal

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.

Publisher: New York : Random House, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385343831
Branch Call Number: OBRE
Characteristics: 337 p. ; 22 cm


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Oct 23, 2017

on 2017 reading ballot

Jun 29, 2017

This was a fascinating, disturbing, suspenseful, thought-provoking novel. The author writes of the wars in the Balkans and their after- effects in the in a very realistic and believable way, without ever giving any real names of towns or "sides," but still gives enough local and historical detail that it made me want to learn more about that region. The central relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter is well written and touching. The mysteries surrounding her grandfather's death and youth were fascinating. I would have liked this book more if there weren't so many unanswered questions at the end, and if there was less violence towards the end of the novel. I also didn't like that the author seems to want to deliberately leave us hanging at the end... what part of the stories the grandfather told were real and what wasn't? I like magic realism, and I think it could have worked in this story, but instead it was divided almost completely between concrete present day reality and the magical stories of her grandfather's youth and early career. At the same time there are enough "maybe it is real" parts towards the end that it gets kind of annoying: either let us know what is real and what isn't, or stop teasing us with the "what ifs." *Spoiler alert* The last part about the tiger living in the woods, mourning his "wife"... that was sort of weird, it seems impossible that a tiger could live that long. I generally like backstories, but in the case of the butcher and the hunter, rather than making them more sympathetic characters, their backstories made it even more disturbing that two men who were sensitive and thoughtful in their youth could be capable of so much violence. The last third or so of the book seemed really violent, especially the treatment of the deaf-mute girl, who is never even given a name! I would have liked to learn more about her character and motivations, but we aren't given much beyond the sympathy and understanding between her and the tiger. Some of the loose ends that I wanted answered were: Did the apothecary deliberately poison the tiger's wife with the drink he sent with her grandfather, and if so, why? Why didn't the townsman know or care where the tiger's wife was buried? Was the person at the crossroads that Natalie encounters the "deathless man" or just someone keeping old beliefs alive? Why couldn't the butcher have said "This isn't the woman I asked to marry, you tricked me" and get on with his life? What really is the point of the two stories? Does the deathless man represent the grandfather's changing attitude toward death as he ages? What is the point of the tiger's wife story? I know the ambiguity makes the story more relate-able to real life in a way, but for my leisure reading I don't want this amount of uncertainty.

multcolib_susannel Mar 07, 2017

When her grandfather disappears, Natalia travels to a strange country to find him, using the stories he used to tell her as a map.

Jan 28, 2017

A very different kind of story, with an intertwining of myth and present-day stories. The setting is in the Balkans and the history and culture is a felt experience in the stories of this novel. There are classical themes brought to vivid life in the characters and places of the story. A pleasure to read.

Jun 08, 2016

A beautifully told story - the movement from one storyline to the next was sometimes confusing, but the imagery was vivid and striking.

timbert Nov 12, 2015

Great imagination sections on mythical characters are best readers are at times left to expand or fill in detail for themselves which I think is a good technique for this kind of the story. In fact I feel the author intends to keep a low profile for herself, the opposite of most. There were some passages that could have been improved with a little more polish. Well worth reading, looking forward to her next book

Sep 30, 2015


LPL_ShirleyB Aug 24, 2015

This is a well-written and complex story set in the war-torn Balkans; some intense descriptions of violence are included. The main character, Natalia, is coping with the loss of her grandfather. The deathless man and the tiger’s wife are among the mystical elements in this tale. A recommendation from Kelly at the Raven Bookstore inspired me to buy this book.

PoMoLibrary Jul 30, 2015

From our 2015 #80DayRead Summer Reading Club traveler Mallee: Natalie travels to an orphanage in the Balkans where secrets lurk in the countryside alongsider her recently deceased grandfather's secrets.

msmigels Apr 08, 2015

The writing is beautiful and Obreht’s extravagant imagination makes parts of the novel read like a picaresque romp through some enchanted Balkan kingdom, rife with magic, murder and mayhem. In the end, however, "The Tiger's Wife" might have benefited from a little less art and a little more life.

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Nov 05, 2011

It took him a long time to ask, “Been around children much?” He wasn’t looking at me, so he didn’t see me shrug. After a while, I shrugged again, tapped my book with a pencil. Eventually, I asked: “Why?” He sat up, pushed his chair away from the table and rubbed his knees. “When men die, they die in fear,” he said. “They take everything they need from you, and as a doctor it is your job to give it, to comfort them, to hold their hand. But children die how they have been living—in hope. They don’t know what’s happening, so they expect nothing, they don’t ask you to hold their hand—but you end up needing them to hold yours. With children, you’re on your own. Do you understand?

DesPlainesReaders May 07, 2011

“These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories”


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DesPlainesReaders May 07, 2011

Amid the war-scarred landscape of a fictionalized Balkan country, a young doctor, Natalia, faces superstition and secrecy on a humanitarian trip to an orphanage across the border. At the same time, she searches for the truth of her grandfather's mysterious final days and his solitary death in a small country village. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, we learn, “the forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death.” During that time, it will “make its way to the places of its past.” Natalia must return home with her grandfather's personal effects before those forty days pass so that his soul can find its way. Des Plaines Readers' Services/Ms_Fitz

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