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The Tiger's Wife

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3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  60,412 ratings  ·  8,287 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by Random House (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nadine Millar
Thank goodness for other reviewers with more patience than me - I was able to understand more about the book in an hour browsing the discussion/review pages on Goodreads than 3 weeks wrestling with the Tiger. After checking others views on the book to make sure it wasn't entirely my fault that the Tiger and I didn't bond, here's the criticisms I still maintain:

And using bullet points, because I love 'em:

- The fables: It's not that I can't do magical realism, I absolutely can. Marquez; Allende; E...more
Fergie
I'm probably one of the few people who didn't "get" this book. While I give credit to Tea Obreht for her ingenuity and creativity with the story, I felt at times frustrated by the pace of the the book and the way it wound through the fantastical tales which I found more distracting than entertaining or enlightening in its detour from the main story.
I kept wanting to care about the main character, Natalia, and the relationship she shared with her grandfather but felt Obreht kept me hanging and d...more
TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
Civil war in the Balkans has left that region bereft and in need. It is in this fascinating region that Téa Obreht sets her elegantly written debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife.

While the protagonist of The Tiger’s Wife is Natalia Stefanovic, a young doctor who has returned to her homeland to help the villagers, the central mystery of the book revolves around Natalia’s beloved grandfather as Natalia seeks to reconstruct his final days and his death in a village named Zdrevkov, far from his home.

Althou...more
Petra Xtra Crunchy
5 stars for hype
4 stars for beautiful writing
3 stars for interesting folk stories
2 stars for plot
1 star for meaning

5 stars. Hype. I'm in the book trade - I have a book shop. I know that all these magazines from the distributors and the newsletters from the book sites that purport to introduce us in an unbiased way to new releases are ttotally fake. Every single one of those books is paid-for advertising. And a lot of money was spent on hyping this book up.

4 stars. Beautiful writing. Luminous eve...more
Shane Malcolm
It's taken me a month to process this book. I almost gave it two stars, but just can't: the writing is so good, and the scope is quite impressive. Possibly too impressive? There is so damn much going on in this book: the narrator's mission with Zora to bring medicine to the orphans, and the mystery of the buried body; the mystery of the Grandfather's disappearance and death; the narrator's stories of growing up with her grandfather; the story of the Grandfather's childhood, and the Tiger's Wife;...more
Karen
While praising Obreht for writing with great lyrical force, some have criticized her for writing a disjointed novel. I disagree. Her novel's central question asks, "How do people respond to death?" The setting is the Balkans, an area with complex histories and cultures -- all wrestling with death in one form or another: death from disease, from poverty and from violence both small within the walls of a family's home or large-scale as with air raid bombing. Death stalks the people of the Balkans...more
Stephen
I think it's interesting to look at the literature coming out now that has to do with building a mythology. Is it because of the incredible works of people like Angela Carter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino and others who have influenced so strongly this generation? Or is it that as we become increasingly godless and mythless, there is something to the human that needs the myth to survive. I am reminded by the knitting and food preserving revolutions that have exploded, something that use...more
Chrissie
I cannot recommend this book. I have given it only two stars. I am almost thinking of giving this one star. I will be very specific in listing what disturbed me. Let me mention immediately that those readers who enjoy fantasy novels will enjoy this more than I did. The events are so fantastical that I cannot classify this as a book of magical realism, but rather fantasy! I love magical realism, but dislike fantasy.

The themes covered are war, Balkan myths, death and man’s relationship to animals...more
Carolyn Crocker
One of those books that casts a spell from which you emerge so reluctantly after the last word. The cycles of death and rebirth, superstition and truth, love and revenge weave through the legends and family stories of the Balkans and the quests of two doctors, a modern young woman and her beloved grandfather.

"When your fight has purpose--to free you from something, to interfere on behalf of the innocent--it has the hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling-- when it is about your nam...more
Rusty
When I finished The Tiger's Wife by Tia Obrecht, I realized that this read is not the one I expected. Instead, it's a gentle read about memories, death, and the future. Natalia loves her grandfather dearly. He taught her so much about life and people that when he dies she begins to recall the many incidents that marked his life and hers. She was the only one he told he was so ill to the distress of her grandmother. He was her mentor so she, too, became a doctor. One of the stories that is so mem...more
Cynthia
Ancient enmities, long ago legends.

I was disappointed which is probably not fair. This book and its author have been hyped so much it would almost be impossible to live up to, having said that this is a there are many wonderful parts to “The Tiger’s Wife”. Obrecht interweaves local Eastern European legends throughout the book helping to explicate the parts that take place currently. She explains a way of thinking through past belief and how those beliefs were formed. For the most part the people...more
aPriL loves HalLowEen
It's so sad. People create meaning out of events that befuddle and frighten them to help put context into the diary they write every sunset. There is the story of the isolated village with expected roles for each villager in relationship to the village reprised several times decades apart in the book. The outsiders that drift into the village's story where the inhabitants are not sure these newcomers aren't evil spirits rather than people no matter how long they stay. How fear compresses time an...more
Don
I can't believe this is Obreht's first novel. It is really really good.

When Obreht's name was announced on the New Yorker's '20 under 40' list, a lot of people complained about it. The complaints were of three varities: 1) misogyny (I read someone who denounced her as a "Barbie look-alike", which she isn't. But even if she was, what does that have to do with her writing?), 2) that she didn't have enough published work (no novels yet, only short stories), or 3) that she was a token 'young person'...more
Cecily
A tricky book to categorise, with SO many threads (and this review will do likewise): Natalia recounts her memories of two periods in her life: childhood and a journey she makes as a young doctor in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. These are mingled with magical-realistic stories of a generation or two earlier, and references to Shere Khan in Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.

There are also longish diversions into the backstory of other characters (Luka, the husband of "the Tiger’s Wife",...more
Sandra K.
I was born in Belgrade a few years before the author and (unlike her) lived there until college graduation, throughout the wars and crises of the 1990s. I was hoping that this book could tell some authentic stories about my generation and my homeland, but after reading it I am disappointed on various levels, which I will try to explain in this review.

MYTHS and RITUALS: I start here because this book is mostly advertised as a mythical Balkan novel. Some basic concepts the author does get right,...more
April
May 02, 2011 April rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Initially, getting into this book was quite difficult for me. There just wasn't enough there in the beginning chapters to hook me in, but I kept reading anyway because of the praises for this book. I kept thinking, am I not getting something here? There's been a large amount of hype for "The Tiger's Wife" and perhaps that's the reason why it did not live up to my expectations. The folklore tales were the best part of this book. I enjoyed reading about the origins of all of the characters that ha...more
Greg Coates
I consider myself of at least average intelligence, but this book lost me. I know the critics loved it and so it is an act of daring for me to state this, but I don't think this is a good novel. So despite what the experts say, i must insist that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes. And here are my reasons why:

- I don't become emotionally attached to a single character. Perhaps that's because there is little to no character development,
- I don't know what this story is "about.". The search for...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the first book I read for my Around the World challenge, and what a way to start. The reason I have both Yugoslavia and Croatia listed is that the locations are intentionally unnamed or made up throughout the novel. Obreht does this on purpose to disassociate story from place, since so much of the turmoil in that area of the world is caused by family name endings and minor differences.

The story is about two generations of doctors in a family - the grandfather and the granddaughter, and a...more
Mary
Perhaps because I have some family ties to the region of the former Yugoslavia, I lovingly embraced the setting of The Tiger's Wife. "The City" is never revealed but I assumed it was meant to be Belgrade. I recognized some of the superstitions and folk tales and smiled and rolled my eyes. When our protagonist Natalia describes the uses of rakija to bring down a fever I was transported back to my childhood bedroom and the eye-stinging stench of rakija-soaked towels forcibly pressed to my forehead...more
Abby
This is a wonder of a novel! I requested it from LTER after reading two stories by Téa Obreht in The New Yorker, one of which turns out to have been an excerpt from this book. The stories were remarkable for their beautifully crafted language and sheer storytelling power and raised my expectations for the novel. I could not have been more richly rewarded.

Natalia, a young doctor in an unnamed Balkan country still suffering from the effects of a war that has torn the country apart, travels across...more
Becky
OK... So here's the deal. Maybe this book is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I made it through almost 3 of 9 discs of the audio, and every time I turned it back on, I immediately found myself getting annoyed and frustrated. Seriously, immediately. There was no transition from perfectly fine, through tetchy to peevish to annoyed. Nope. I turn on this audiobook, and then I hear the narration, and 2 seconds later I want to rip out my car CD player in a Hu...more
Chris
Hi, my name is Tea Obreht and I have an exotic sounding name, and I wrote a book with a catchy title, so, like, I knew it would be a bestseller.

So the book is, like, about some countries with borders, but I don't want to say the names of the countries because someone might not like that. More important, if I said what countries they took place in that would be like, eeeewwwwww, history.

So the most interesting character is the grandfather, but I didn't want to make him a main character because he...more
Robert
The prose flows like a calm river meandering through a valley at sunset. The descriptions as vivid as a painter’s imagination with adverbs and adjectives used about as sparingly as midnight binges. There’s no question Tea Obreht can write. Her talent level exceeds her twenty-five years (at the time of her novel’s publication) by leaps and bounds, and she could easily write circles around novelists more than twice her age. She could teach classes on poetic prose and invoking crystal clear images...more
Mark
It is always interesting to read the first-time novelist who is already highly regarded as a story writer. Is s/he able to make the transition to the long form?

The Tiger's Wife comprises a varied set of interesting stories. The writing is often exquisite. (I didn't feel the same way about most of the dialogue, but maybe that's just me). Each story has its own drama, tension and style. As a group, the stories will hold particular appeal for fans of Magical Realism, especially with a Balkan flavo...more
Cathy DuPont
May 04, 2013 Cathy DuPont rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cathy by: Friend Leonard Pellicer
What to say about this? I must think about how to word this short review because I'm sure some of my Goodreads friends might enjoy it.

A lifelong friend, who lives down the street, said it was the best book he's read in years and "you have to read it." Hope he's not home when I return it because I don't want to say, "I didn't like it much" trying to be nice when someone recommends a book so strongly. He’s not on Goodreads although I have mentioned the site a few times, so he won’t see my review...more
Ed
There are so many things that I really loved about Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife, but others that I didn't like very much, including aspects of some of those same things I loved. But it is safe to say that Obreht, in her debut novel, has created something unlike you have ever read before.

It is a novel of three stories all set in an unnamed worn-torn country (though a glance at Obreht's bio or an educated guess will take you to - take your pick - Yugoslavia, the Balkans, Serbia, Croatia, etc.): a...more
Justine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathleen
I was very impressed by this debut effort by 26 (!!!) year old Téa Obreht. English may be a second language for the author, but her command of it is absolute. She is clearly a born story teller and her book had me enthralled from the beginning.

The setting of The Tiger’s Wife is kept vague, with only the names of small villages revealed. We know this is the former Yugoslavia, and we know at various points in the story that borders are crossed, but we don’t know which. It doesn’t matter really, t...more
Almeta
Loved the folklore and was (as inteneded) irritated by the dangerous village gossip.

Really enjoyed the biographical stories of the characters of the butcher, the apothecary and the hunter. Needed more of that! (view spoiler)

And here, I have to confess, that I never solved the "mystery" (view spoiler)...more
Jim Matysik
I thought it was one of the best books I've read this year. It really lived up to its hype. The ending really clinched it for me. I would recommend this book to everyone I know.
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Téa Obreht was born in 1985 in the former Yugoslavia, and spent her childhood in Cyprus and Egypt before eventually immigrating to the United States in 1997. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Zoetrope: All-Story, The New York Times, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading. Her...more
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“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.” 53 likes
“Come on, is your heart a sponge or a fist?” 38 likes
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