“Knowing, above all, that I would come looking, and find what he had left for me, all that remained of The Jungle Book in the pocket of his doctor’s coat, that folder-up, yellowed page torn from the back of the book, with a bristle of thick, coarse hairs clenced inside. Galina, says my grandfather’s handwriting, above and below a child’s drawing of the tiger, who is curved like the blade of a scimitar across the page. Galina, it says, and that is how I know to find him again, in Galina, in the story he hadn’t told me but perhaps wished he had.”
It is hard to describe The Tiger’s Wife, as it feels like so many books in one. It is a book about storytelling and the role in plays in our lives, our histories and our families. It is a book about a young doctor named Natalia Stefanovic who travels across a border to help young children with medicine at an orphanage. It is a book about the aftermath of civil war and how it shapes the lives of people, even those the war barely touches. It is a book about a deathless man, a tiger, a wife, a group of mysterious people digging in a vineyard, a country scarred by war and a young lady losing her beloved Grandfather. It is a story about magic, myth and the power of superstition.
“Everything necessary to understand my grandfather lies between two stories,” she says, “the story of the tiger’s wife, and the story of the deathless man. These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories of his life — of my grandfather’s days in the army; his great love for my grandmother; the years he spent as a surgeon and a tyrant of the University.”
Obreht is a beautiful writer who transitions effortlessly between multiple narratives, the past, the present and the fable, slowly winding them into one, thread by thread. The end result is a book to be remembered and cherished. Her graceful writing uses the stories told throughout Stefanovic’s life by her Grandfather to reveal the hopes, dreams and realities of the people around her and the communities that formed the fables themselves. We are kept enraptured by mystery, horror, magic, breathtaking beauty and the elegance of the writing itself.
This book is an astounding debut for such a young author. I believe it will be considered one of the best books of 2011, if not by the world then definitely by myself. I am sure we have many books to read by this author and I can’t wait for her next one.
I was extremely pleased to get a couple books signed by Obreht this week when she came to Austin to talk about her book. And because I loved it so much I not only got one signed for me, but I got one signed to give away to a lucky follower of my bookish ramblings! Comment on this post and you will be entered to win this gem of a book. (In addition please note if you follow this blog and/or myself on Twitter for extra entries into the giveaway)