The Tiger’s Wife ~ Téa Obreht
I know that Tea Obreht is probably sick of hearing and reading about her age. She’s probably tired of terms like protegé and “the next best thing”. Still, I can’t help but mention it right off the bat for one reason: she writes as if she has seen two and a half centuries, not two and a half decades. There are other young writers, sure. There are other amazing, brilliant, lyrical writers, too. Obreht’s genius lies in achieving both in the same breath without ever stopping to think about the fact that she was born in 1985.
Her story moves fluidly through the onset of World War Two up until the fallout of the recent Balkan conflict. Covering religion, superstition, medicine, technology, family and friendship, her analysis of life in the east is poignant and perfect.
Her primary focuses fall in two camps: Natalia and her grandfather. Both doctors, a generation apart, they have different outlooks but not as different as one might assume. Her grandfather is a storyteller like no other, weaving his past seamlessly into Natalia’s present and future. Natalia is a pragmatic, young doctor, trying to change the world, one ailing child at a time, but in her heart, she can’t help but wonder about the tales she’s been influenced by, her whole life.
I’m not exactly sure what I thought I would find between the covers of The Tiger’s Wife but what I did find, I loved. The writing is absolutely pitch perfect for both Natalia and her Grandfather. The emotions, both modern-day practical and yesteryear emotional, are forces that cloud all semblance of perceived reality, blending tall tales, village beliefs and just a teeny bit of modern science.
This is the only book on the Orange Prize short list that I’ve gotten to, so far, but needless to say, right now, I understand why it was picked and my hope is that it becomes the final choice. This is a highly recommended story for readers of almost every genre. There’s mystery, history, love, laughter, loss and above all else, incredible writing.