The Tiger's Wife
by Téa Obreht
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • WINNER OF THE ORANGE PRIZE • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
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 The New York Times • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Kansas City Star • Library Journal
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with "the deathless man." But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger's wife.
The story takes place in an unnamed land clearly modeled after the former Yugoslavia, where the author spent her early childhood. Narrator Natalia, a young pediatrician, recalls her grandfather's adventuresome life, musing: "Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories: the story of the tiger's wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories in his life."
In the story of the tiger's wife, a lonely deaf-mute married to an abusive butcher in an isolated mountain village is given the derogatory moniker "tiger's wife" during the Second World War. Her apparent affection for a tiger that has escaped the bomb-flattened zoo and now roams the mountain forests prompts salacious and hostile gossip on the part of the villagers, who eventually decide to kill the majestic creature. Natalia's grandfather, a child enamored of Kipling's The Jungle Book and determined to protect the tiger from the frenzied villagers, forges a bond with the battered but stoic and immensely dignified woman spurned by almost everyone else.
Narrator Natalia muses: "When your fight has purpose—to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent—it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling—when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event—there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it."
"stunning... a richly textured and searing novel." — The New York Times
"Filled with astonishing immediacy and presence... remarkable... old and new memories collide in a vibrant collage that has no date, no dateline." — The New York Times Book Review
"That The Tiger's Wife never slips entirely into magical realism is part of its magic... its graceful commingling of contemporary realism and village legend seems even more absorbing." — The Washington Post
"So rich with themes of love, legends and mortality that every novel that comes after it this year is in peril of falling short in comparison with its uncanny beauty." — Time
About the Author
Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her work has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and she has been named by the New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty. Learn more at www.TeaObreht.com.
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