Dec 19, 2012

The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht

Readers and booksellers everywhere have raved about this book from the moment it came out, and I can see why. Obreht has the kind of lyrical narrative voice that only comes along once in a great while, and the fact that she wrote this book in her early twenties makes it all the more impressive. She is incredibly talented and has a background rich with inspiration, having grown up before the age of twelve in former Yugoslavia. "The Tiger's Wife" is a tale of wrenching separation, that of a nation from itself and a granddaughter from her grandfather, and the story of coming back together again, a kind of repatriation despite the seemingly insurmountable barriers of war and death.

The novel alternates between the present, just after Natalia's grandfather dies far from home and from causes kept secret; the tales he told Natalia of his occasional meetings with the deathless man; and Natalia piecing together the story of her grandfather's early life with the tiger's wife in his home village. The jumps in chronology can be a little disorienting, since Natalia tells her own story in a different voice from the story of the tiger's wife, but other than that, the writing is superb. Obreht has the talent I believe marks out truly great writers: the ability to speak truths that seem obvious upon reading, but have never really occurred to you previously, or have never been so well described. Combined with her beautiful descriptive writing, this makes for a fantastic first novel, and I cannot wait to see Obreht's future work.

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