One thing we’ll learn in this blog is I’ll probably never review something current. I have a very specific book-buying process which includes a severely strict budget (self-imposed, I’m not made of money yall), which generally knocks out current bestsellers, unless I have a gift card… or someone gives me a book as a prezzie! Because books are THE BEST presents.
The Tiger’s Wife is a novel written by Téa Obreht; it was published to much hoopla in 2011 when Ms. Obreht was just 24 years old. Following the story of a young doctor named Natalia, The Tiger’s Wife brings together family, history, war, folklore and myth. Natalia is a young woman growing up during wartime in an unnamed Balkan country. Living with and being raised by both her mother and grandparents, Natalia is extremely close with her grandfather. As the story opens, Natalia and her best friend/fellow doctor, Zora, are travelling across the borders of their war torn country to work a clinic for orphans and other sick children. While waiting in line at a customs booth that separates their previously whole nation, Natalia calls her grandmother – she learns that her grandfather has passed away in a remote part of the country that none of the family has ever heard of.
As Natalia deals with the loss of her grandfather, their relationship is revealed through the stories of The Tiger’s Wife and the Deathless Man. The tiger’s wife is a story from Grandfather’s childhood, when during a past war, a zoo is bombed and from which a tiger escapes up into the mountains and the woods surrounding Grandfather’s remote village. As a child, and importantly, as an adult, Grandfather adores Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and Shere Khan in particular. So, when Grandfather learns that there is a tiger roaming around near the village, he is super pumped.
The rest of the village, not so much.
There is one person, however, who does not fear the tiger in just same way that Grandfather does not fear the tiger. She is the deaf-mute wife of the town butcher and the tiger is her only salvation. There is much more, obviously, to the tiger’s wife’s story but I don’t want to reveal too much.
While the novel is titled The Tiger’s Wife, my favorite parts of the book were those of the Deathless Man. The Deathless Man is, as his name would suggest, a man who simply cannot die. Grandfather meets him for the first time as a young doctor when he is called, urgently, to a village. A man died in their town and though he was a stranger they felt it their duty to give the man a funeral. Which is all well and good until the man sits up in his coffin asking for water. Then they shoot him. Twice. (I adore the Deathless Man). Grandfather and the Deathless Man cross paths several times and each time is just wonderful. I think, in the end, The Tiger’s Wife and the Deathless Man show us the power of stories. The stories that we grow up with and the stories that we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our world and our life.
Would I Read It Again? Probably not. I thoroughly enjoyed this read; the story was intriguing and challenging, and typical of myth/folklore it doesn’t give you all the answers, which bothers some people but which I enjoy. I don’t think I’ll read it over and over again, like I do with some books, but I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys an intriguing story.