Karen's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
Dec 16, 11

bookshelves: adventure, death-and-dying, european-literature, folklore-fairytale-legend, magical-realism
Read from December 07 to 15, 2011

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 like a tiger -- demonstrating its inherent brutality, grace, and stealth. Her characters respond to death in various ways, both literal and symbolic. We respond in a logical, scientific way as do three characters who are physicians. We respond by hunting down death as do a handful of characters. We respond as butchers. As magicians. As ghosts. As artists. As death's lover. As storytellers.

The novel contains a host of characters who symbolize these various responses to death, but it's organized around Natalia and her grandfather, who are both doctors. Her grandfather adopts more than one response to death through his love of stories as indicated by his well-worn copy of The Jungle Book--which notably features a tiger. Even in the present-day, Natalia hears stories from the locals whom she treats, tales that are a mix of old and new, a mix of fact and fiction.

I had to read The Tiger's Wife slowly and with great attention, or it sprang at me with shocking surprises--about the particulars of life in the Balkans and about the universal responses we have to death. Like the tiger that serves as the central symbol, Obreht has created a mesmerizing novel filled with horrible, beautiful force.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Anita Brenner Exactly!

Daffodil I get the same conclusion about the story's theme of Death... You mention there are 3 of the characters are doctors, what about the deathless man? Can we consider him as a doctor, too? Well, he said he used to be one...

I have another question, and I haven't re-read the book, before asking this one, Natalia on, while on her mercy mission, towards the end of the story was following man in the middle of the night, which she thought was the mora and turned out to be the deathless man and in their conversation, the deathless man said something like, "You wouldn't tell my wife, would you? Meaning that he is the mora. I got confused at that part, I thought his wife, the sister of the Tiger's wife was long dead? brrrr **shakes head profusely**

Jessie Jellick Daffodil - if you re-read the end you will find that the person she followed at the end turned out to be the man she was staying with at the vineyard. He explains that he began pretending to be the mora to help his wife's grief over their lost child, the one who drew his beloved dog & now that the township & his mother draw. I hope this helps :)

Danny Well articulated. I'm still not sure I understand the point of the tigers wife fable in the story. Any thoughts?

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