It’s hard to describe the kind of novel The Tiger’s Wife is. Though relatively short, it’s a multi-layered novel that spans at least 3 generations.
The main story is about the relationship between Natalia (the narrator) and her beloved grandfather, who has been her mentor and inspiration throughout life.
As a young doctor trying to make a difference in her war torn country, Natalia volunteers to provide medical care to an orphanage in a neighboring country. On this seemingly simple mission, Natalia meets unusual people with strange rituals and dark secrets, and discovers more than she had ever hoped to.
In an attempt to understand her grandfather better, Natalia recounts his life from childhood and the strange but fascinating stories he used to tell her growing up – the tiger’s wife and the deathless man being his two favorites.
The tale about the tiger’s wife is a sad story about a young girl who befriended Natalia’s grandfather when he was a child in his old village, while the deathless man was a mysterious traveler who could predict people’s deaths, while he, himself, seemed immortal. According to Natalia’s grandfather, he had met the deathless man at different times in his life, under different circumstances.
Apart from the tiger’s wife and the deathless man, there was also the story of Luka the butcher, Darisa the bear, and the village apothecary.
Set in a fictional Balkan country which was devastated by war throughout history, The Tiger’s Wife is a story not about death and destruction, but about life, and survival. It is a story about the richness of life and culture, despite hardships and insurmountable challenges.
For me, it was not so much the novel as whole, but the different stories found within the novel which were the most fascinating, and which made this book enjoyable to read – the deathless man being my favorite. The novel has a good combination of mystery, culture, and folklore that is intriguing enough see readers through ’til the end.
The Tiger’s Wife (2011) – Tea Obreht
Personal rating: 3/5