Tag Archives: Number 2 Recommend

Book Review: The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.

Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

I really wanted to like Tea Obreht’s debut novel.  I thought, hey here is a girl not that much older than me publishing a novel that got rave reviews and isn’t my normal-of-late dystopian novel so I’ll probably like it.  I don’t know if it wasn’t just my cup of tea during the time I was reading it or if it just isn’t my cup of tea in general.  My bookclub voted to read this novel and I was looking forward to discussing it with them but, of course, my job kept me away and I missed out on hearing what everyone else had to say.  I prefer to go to bookclub when I didn’t jive with the book as opposed to when I did because I feel my ears are more open.  I love listening to people share what made them fall in love with a read and having my eyes opened to something new.  Now, admittedly I read this book over the span of 2 months while traveling a lot and never sat down for a long stretch of time to read so I think I missed out on the flow of the text.  With that said…

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht weaves a complex tale of secrets, death, myth, folklore, and the relationship between humans and animals.  Through the narrator, Natalia, we meet her famed physician grandfather who raises her on stories of the Tiger’s Wife and the deathless man, her best friend Zora who joins her on a medical mission that takes them over the border to their wartime “enemies” where they meet: a friar whose brother’s death holds many secrets, his parents who are the key to those secrets, and workers tearing apart a vineyard in search of their family member’s body.  Through her journey across the border, Natalia finally learns the secrets of her grandfather’s mysterious disappearance and location of his death and begins to understand more about the reasons behind his childhood stories.

Obreht shows a lot of constraint in not explaining every little detail which often serves to frustrate the reader rather than inspire them.  At times I did want a little more detail but understood her reasons for not spelling everything out.  It served to make me feel what Natalia was feeling: constant frustration and confusion over her grandfather’s mysterious ways.  Obreht also manages to seamlessly go between Natalia’s present and the grandfather’s past, sometimes a little too seamlessly where I forgot which “world” I was in.  And while in the grandfather’s childhood, we are also taken into the worlds of some of the citizens of his hometown.  All of Obreht’s tales serve to drive the reader further into the mysteries of the tiger and it’s relationship to Natalia’s grandfather.

Where my dissatisfaction lies is in my own inability to understand where Obreht was going and the reasons behind the story.  This is where bookclub would have come in handy.  I definitely feel that The Tiger’s Wife deserves more time and attention than I was able to give it and I plan to one day return to its pages.

I’d say if you want to think, then this is a number 1 recommend.  If you don’t want to think, don’t bother.  For me, I rate it a number 2 recommend.



Wicked. Am I Alone?

So I finally read WickedAfter seeing the play, being an avid fan of The Wizard of Oz, and hearing slews of people talking about the novel, I finally read it.  I knew the idea of the novel… that is was a “prequel” of sorts to TWOO but I hadn’t given much thought to what Wicked would actually be about; until a few weeks ago while relaxing on the beach.

My cousin was tearing through Wicked like only a girl can who prefers reading over eating.  She laid on the beach for hours, ignoring her nephew, her favorite cousin (ahem), and the beautiful ocean.  At night, back at the beach house, she would lay on the couch and read and read and read.  She was so engrossed in the novel, she stayed up late every night to finish.  I’m thinking, man this must be some rad book.  She got me even more interested when she tells me there is bestiality, adultery, and murder.  More and more I’m thinking, I have got to get my hands on this novel.  Knowing my mom had a copy at home, I waited until I returned from the beach to begin this tale of debauchery.

Now while there is a slight hint of bestiality, it was not the full blown escapade I was expecting.  And even though there is adultery, it’s done in sort of a sweet way.  And the murder… well we already knew there was murder from TWOO.  And I was thinking it was going to be bloody battles escalated with an underlying thread of the ultimate struggle for power.  Obviously that power struggle exists, but the bloody battle I was so hoping for is absent.  The bloodiest we get is… (spoiler alert) Fiyero and Madame Morrible.  But they don’t really count in my opinion.  Bloody, perhaps, but a battle, no.

Something I didn’t get… and maybe it becomes clear once I finish the novel… is where does the “killing of the wicked witch of the west” scene from TWOO happen?  Because of Wicked, I was thinking it happens at Kiamo Ko.  But if memory serves me right, doesn’t Dorothy take the yellow brick road to get to the witch?  So how does she get to Kiamo Ko?  The map doesn’t show the YBR as coming near Kiamo Ko.  I need to keep reading to figure this one out…

I don’t know… am I alone in being slightly disappointed in this novel?  I haven’t reached the end yet and maybe that has something to do with it.  But honestly, if I can be honest with you dear devoted single number followers, I cannot wait for this to be over.  My cousin tore through it… two of them actually!  One finished and then bam! the next one finished.  And I cannot seem to finish.  This weekend, I thought, this weekend I will finish it.  I even brought home another novel from work to read thinking I’ll finish Wicked and then move on to the next one.  But no, I’m still not done.  I just want it to be over.

Overall, I am enjoying Wicked even if I can’t wait for it to be over.  I think Gregory Maguire is a genius for composing the witch’s back story and giving us reasons behind her anger and obsession with Dorothy.  But sometimes I think he went on a bit of a tangent and I would get confused.  I found myself having to read the novel during times and in spaces where I could concentrate and give it my utmost attention… no wonder my cousin zoned out on it!  The names, the places, and tribes were a lot to keep track of.  While the novel is enjoyable and intriguing, it is long and often times confusing.  I give it an inbetweener… my first inbetweener… it’s a 2 and a 3.