The Tiger’s Wife is a first novel by Tea Obreht (b.1985!) that has been recognized and named as one of the best books of 2012 by publications ranging from Vogue and Oprah Magazine to the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. And the recognition is well deserved. It is an exploration of the myths that are created from experiences that define us and the power those myths have to form a legacy of knowledge that can be passed on from one generation to the next.
Natalia Stefanovi is a doctor practicing in a unnamed Balkan country, trying to help orphans across border after the war between the two countries had ended. As she travels to the village to give aid and necessary vaccinations, she receives a phone call informing her that her grandfather has died in a place not too far from where she is going. As Natalia grieves the loss of her grandfather she recall’s the stories that he told her, of the tiger’s wife and the the deathless man. These stories begin to form a counterpoint to the reality that Natalia is facing in her own life as the village where she is staying is disconcerted by the return of a large extended family who has been told that they must dig up the bones of someone they had to leave behind in the war and who now seems to be causing a strange malady among the surviving family members.
Caught between her scientific knowledge and medical training and the strong belief of the large extended family who continue to refuse the medical help they so obviously need and dig in the fields for the bones, Natalia remembers the stories that her grandfather told about the tiger who escaped from the zoo and befriended the deaf mute woman in the village of his boyhood, and the encounters that he had throughout his life with the deathless man.
As the story weaves back and forth between these family stories and the reality of Natalia’s life we are reminded once again that truth takes many forms and that often the most profound truths are found in the stories and myths that have been passed down to us and have formed our very lives.
Obreht’s language is lyrical and graceful and she trusts in the simplicity of her prose to let the stories speak for themselves-and they do.
Brenda’s Rating: ****1/2 Stars (41/2 Stars out of 5)
Recommend This Book To: Lauren, Marian, Sharon and Keith
Book Study Worthy: Yes
Read in ebook format.