Book number 7 is The Tiger’s Wife by T. Obreht. I started reading it January 19, but as dengue rudely interrupted, I only finished today. With death reeking of The Tiger’s Wife from cover to cover, it really did not make good reading in the hospital setting. 😆
The main frame of the book is on Natalia, a young doctor, trying to come to terms with the death of her grandfather, outside of the border, in a town not even on the map. I say main frame because from chapter to chapter, different stories of myth and folklore are juggled, with a tad of magical realism, which I must admit is handled very well. I often roll my eyes when I realize a book is trying to mix real with the imagined, but in the case of The Tiger’s Wife, it has succeeded.
The strength of the book lied in this storytelling. The descriptions were rich, cultured, and vivid, and there was layer after layer of texture encapsulated within the pages of the book. This is also why it is impossible to devour the book, where common sense dictated to stop and digest one full bit at a time for the most understanding. Many times I’ve felt I’ve read a long stretch, only to discover it has only been three pages in reality. Don’t confuse this as drag. It was good richness that you can almost feel rolling in your mouth. 🙂
The sketch of the characters were dismal but forgivable because the highlight of the work, as I’ve mentioned, is in the storytelling. Simply put, The Tiger’s Wife is a story of stories glued by good descriptive writing. Now with regard to the setting, it was unnamed, but at the back cover, you will see the author information and it will dawn on you that the unnamed Balkan country the story took was the former Yugoslavia.
Among many things, the book talked about superstitions and how people easily take them for the real thing, for the sake of holding on to something than nothing. It too showed how everyone tends to blame others for their misfortunes because it is easier. It touched family and how we deal with our loved ones, of how we sometimes do certain things selfishly and without remorse, oddly enough, for the love of them. The Tiger’s Wife discussed things that we cannot understand, or were not meant to be understood, only accepted, and also of war and its effects, how it never ends, even when the smoke has gone out and the rubble cleared. But most of all, the book talked about death, and how people choose to deal with it, or not. In this the characters make a brilliant job in depicting how everyone uniquely responds to the ultimate equalizer, the only thing certain in this world marked with uncertainty.
The main symbolism on the book, the tiger, is nothing but death too. How it is always there, lurking, hunting, stalking, leaving traces but not entirely seen, until it comes, but before then, spreading fear to some, but interestingly, hope to others. I loved how the suddenness of it all was explained, how a sudden death is a gift. The book truly reeked of death, in all shapes and sizes, but in the best possible sort, that enlightens the living.
Interestingly enough, the most vivid character of the book, was a deathless man. He was a grim reaper of some sort and I loved his story, understood the logic behind his job, and tear at the fate the befell him. You should see how everything ties together for yourself. It is really something special.
The book has a lot to say about the living in the unraveling of death, and when you reach the last page, it leaves you with that feeling of satisfaction of having completed an adventure. The Tiger’s Wife was a lovely experience that I am certain I would embark again. 🙂
On the photo: The Tiger’s Wife on paperback My Man got me prior to dengue. I was sick for 12 days to open the year, which explains the oranges that came with the book.