Karen's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 24, 14

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.
79 likes · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Tiger's Wife.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

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?

Tulsi Sv When I read it for the first time I gave up and then after a few months I picked up the book and finished reading it. It scares me to even think that I was so close to missing this amazing book! I love the deathless man, I love the tiger and I love the doctor! I will never get over this book

Sadhvi Kaul I cannot agree more with this review. It is a beautifully written book which requires close reading for it to be meaningful on so many levels.

Lisa Mcbroom I see it as kind of a European fairytale about life and death,,, to myself it wasn't really getting a point but how it made me feel.... I was close to my grandfather and we shared a love of reading and it took me back to that time!

Sadhvi Kaul Why do the people paint Bis, the dog, all the time? I can't think why? Could it be a superstition related to Fra Antun's dead brother?

message 9: by richard (new)

richard Great review! I came to this book after reading Chigoze Obioma's brilliant and compelling "The Fishermen," and hearing someone write about how similar it was to the story of the prophesying madman who goes on the prowl shelling out damning prophesies to people of an African town. The Tiger in Obreht’s novel is the madman in Obioma’s. Both are masters of the word—future great literary masters. Highly recommended.

message 10: by Phil (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phil Virgo This is a great review. How use superstitions, magical thinking to deal with death - including the very rational scientific narrator.

back to top