Doreen's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
Mar 10, 2012

it was amazing
Read from March 08 to 10, 2012

I'm still trying to parse my reactions to this book. Tea Obreht writes well, but not in the showy way that a lot of good writers do, either gilding lush descriptions of place and emotion, or stripping everything down to its hardiest pieces. Instead, she writes in a matter-of-fact way, forgoing large words for direct ones, tumbling the reader into passages through time that wind round and round without ever losing sight of the narrative threads that propel the story forward. She writes with an even-handed sympathy for all her subjects, no matter how awful they are or turn out to be in the end, and the ending itself, though short, doesn't seem abrupt or unsatisfying (I'm looking at you, Swamplandia!) I did think the transition to "Gavran Gaile" after the denouement of the story of the titular character was a bit of a letdown, but not enough to dock points from what is, overall, a meditation on death and the ways people seek out love and comfort in the face of violence and despair.

It took me a while to realize that the book is set in a made-up Eastern European/Balkan country (though the casual use of the word "soccer" was jarring and marked the author as obviously American.) I've also realized that the story is just as much about the struggles of generations of physicians to heal people rent by war and dependent on superstition as it is about folktales of women loving tigers and men who can never die. The description on the dust jacket, by the way, does the book absolutely no favors. It's hard to distill the themes of this book into something commercial. Ms Obreht isn't concerned with the relatively petty themes of romance or friendship, which can be disconcerting to readers used to those being the basis of almost all magical realist fiction. Instead, she writes of the futility of preservation, but in a way that is decidedly kind to those who try.

I'm still a jumble of emotions and thoughts after reading this excellent book, so I apologize if this review is less coherent than it might be. I'd highly recommend it as a thought-provoking read, though, bravely and beautifully written.

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Reading Progress

03/08/2012 page 67
20.0% "The description in the dust jacket does the book itself no favors."
03/10/2012 page 270
80.0% ""I said: "I'm sorry," and regretted it immediately, because it just fell out of my mouth and continued to fall, and did nothing.""

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