Terry's Reviews > The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
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's review
Aug 05, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

Tea Obreht has received a great deal of attention for being only 25 years old and writing this richly imagined novel. I liked this book very much -- it intertwines the story of a young physician, Natalia, who has gone to inoculate children in an orphanage with the story of Natalia's relationship with her grandfather, who is also a physician. The book revolves around retelling her grandfather's stories, along with his history as a boy that she discovers on her own. The Tiger's Wife is set in an unnamed Balkans country (Obreht was born in the former Yugoslavia) and a constant state of war forms the backdrop for the Natalia's life as well as the stories she tells about her grandfather.

A great deal of the book is told through "magical realism" or even fantasy. I'm not necessarily a big fan of this type of storytelling, but I think it works well for this book. The main focus of all the intertwined stories is how people deal with death and the uncertainty that death presents in one's life. Obreht uses magical thinking in writing the book because it allows her to explore the role that superstition and folklore play to help people make sense of their lives in the face of overwhelming uncertainty (such as war & death). This sentence on p. 312 captures what Obreht illustrates throughout the book: "He learned, too, that when confounded by the extremes of life -- whether good or bad -- people would turn first to superstition to find meaning, to stitch together unconnected events in order to understand what was happening." In our "post-modern" society we often think that knowledge and reason hold sway while folklore and superstition are the realm of the less enlightened or found only in past generations. I think one of Obreht's purposes is to make it clear that when faced with grave uncertainties, human societies in any age will try to find meaning and purpose in life through superstition, ritual, and folklore.

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