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The Tiger's Wife
Cover of The Tiger's Wife
The Tiger's Wife
A Novel
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NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

  • "Spectacular . . . [Téa Obreht] spins a tale of such marvel and magic in a literary voice so enchanting that the mesmerized reader wants her never to stop."—Entertainment Weekly
    Look for Téa Obreht's second novel, Inland, coming August 13, 2019.
    NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • The Christian Science Monitor
  • The Kansas City Star
  • Library Journal
    Weaving a brilliant latticework of family legend, loss, and love, Téa Obreht, the youngest of The New Yorker's twenty best American fiction writers under forty, has spun a timeless novel that will establish her as one of the most vibrant, original authors of her generation.
    In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with "the deathless man." But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger's wife.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal
  • O: The Oprah Magazine
  • The Economist
  • Vogue • Slate • Chicago Tribune
  • The Seattle Times
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Publishers Weekly • Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
    "Stunning . . . a richly textured and searing novel."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
    "[Obreht] has a talent for subtle plotting that eludes most writers twice her age, and her descriptive powers suggest a kind of channeled genius. . . . No novel [this year] has been more satisfying."The Wall Street Journal

    "Filled with astonishing immediacy and presence, fleshed out with detail that seems firsthand, The Tiger's Wife is all the more remarkable for being the product not of observation but of imagination."The New York Times Book Review
    "That The Tiger's Wife never slips entirely into magical realism is part of its magic. . . . Its graceful commingling of contemporary realism and village legend seems even more absorbing."The Washington Post

  • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

  • "Spectacular . . . [Téa Obreht] spins a tale of such marvel and magic in a literary voice so enchanting that the mesmerized reader wants her never to stop."—Entertainment Weekly
    Look for Téa Obreht's second novel, Inland, coming August 13, 2019.
    NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • The Christian Science Monitor
  • The Kansas City Star
  • Library Journal
    Weaving a brilliant latticework of family legend, loss, and love, Téa Obreht, the youngest of The New Yorker's twenty best American fiction writers under forty, has spun a timeless novel that will establish her as one of the most vibrant, original authors of her generation.
    In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with "the deathless man." But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger's wife.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal
  • O: The Oprah Magazine
  • The Economist
  • Vogue • Slate • Chicago Tribune
  • The Seattle Times
  • Dayton Daily News
  • Publishers Weekly • Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
    "Stunning . . . a richly textured and searing novel."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
    "[Obreht] has a talent for subtle plotting that eludes most writers twice her age, and her descriptive powers suggest a kind of channeled genius. . . . No novel [this year] has been more satisfying."The Wall Street Journal

    "Filled with astonishing immediacy and presence, fleshed out with detail that seems firsthand, The Tiger's Wife is all the more remarkable for being the product not of observation but of imagination."The New York Times Book Review
    "That The Tiger's Wife never slips entirely into magical realism is part of its magic. . . . Its graceful commingling of contemporary realism and village legend seems even more absorbing."The Washington Post

  • Available formats-
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    Languages:-
    Copies-
    • Available:
      4
    • Library copies:
      4
    Levels-
    • ATOS:
      7.1
    • Lexile:
    • Interest Level:
      UG
    • Text Difficulty:
      6

    Recommended for you

     
    Awards-
    Excerpts-
    • Chapter One

      The Coast

      the forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death. That first night, before its forty days begin, the soul lies still against sweated-on pillows and watches the living fold the hands and close the eyes, choke the room with smoke and silence to keep the new soul from the doors and the windows and the cracks in the floor so that it does not run out of the house like a river. The living know that, at daybreak, the soul will leave them and make its way to the places of its past--the schools and dormitories of its youth, army barracks and tenements, houses razed to the ground and rebuilt, places that recall love and guilt, difficulties and unbridled happiness, optimism and ecstasy, memories of grace meaningless to anyone else--and sometimes this journey will carry it so far for so long that it will forget to come back. For this reason, the living bring their own rituals to a standstill: to welcome the newly loosed spirit, the living will not clean, will not wash or tidy, will not remove the soul's belongings for forty days, hoping that sentiment and longing will bring it home again, encourage it to return with a message, with a sign, or with forgiveness.

      If it is properly enticed, the soul will return as the days go by, to rummage through drawers, peer inside cupboards, seek the tactile comfort of its living identity by reassessing the dish rack and the doorbell and the telephone, reminding itself of functionality, all the time touching things that produce sound and make its presence known to the inhabitants of the house.

      Speaking quietly into the phone, my grandma reminded me of this after she told me of my grandfather's death. For her, the forty days were fact and common sense, knowledge left over from burying two parents and an older sister, assorted cousins and strangers from her hometown, a formula she had recited to comfort my grandfather whenever he lost a patient in whom he was particularly invested--a superstition, according to him, but something in which he had indulged her with less and less protest as old age had hardened her beliefs.

      My grandma was shocked, angry because we had been robbed of my grandfather's forty days, reduced now to thirty-seven or thirty-eight by the circumstances of his death. He had died alone, on a trip away from home; she hadn't known that he was already dead when she ironed his clothes the day before, or washed the dishes that morning, and she couldn't account for the spiritual consequences of her ignorance. He had died in a clinic in an obscure town called Zdrevkov on the other side of the border; no one my grandma had spoken to knew where Zdrevkov was, and when she asked me, I told her the truth: I had no idea what he had been doing there.

      "You're lying," she said.

      "Bako, I'm not."

      "He told us he was on his way to meet you."

      "That can't be right," I said.

      He had lied to her, I realized, and lied to me. He had taken advantage of my own cross-country trip to slip away--a week ago, she was saying, by bus, right after I had set out myself--and had gone off for some reason unknown to either of us. It had taken the Zdrevkov clinic staff three whole days to track my grandma down after he died, to tell her and my mother that he was dead, arrange to send his body. It had arrived at the City morgue that morning, but by then, I was already four hundred miles from home, standing in the public bathroom at the last service station before the border, the pay phone against my ear, my pant legs rolled up, sandals in hand, bare feet slipping on the green tiles under the broken sink.

      Somebody had fastened a bent hose onto the faucet, and it hung, nozzle down, from the...

    About the Author-
    • Téa Obreht was born in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. Her writing has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, and The Guardian, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has been named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty and included in the National Book Foundation's list of 5 Under 35. Téa Obreht lives in New York.


    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      May 2, 2011
      Obreht, named last year as one of the New Yorker's 20 novelists to watch under the age of 40, makes her debut with this magical-realist evocation of a country in wartime. The author, herself an immigrant to the U.S. from the former Yugoslavia, transforms a young woman's memories of her grandfather's stories into a kaleidoscopic portrait of her former country's traumatic history. The book is read in tag-team fashion by Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs. Sachs sounds gravelly, grouchy, and well-pickled in various alcoholic libations; Duerden is British, plummy, arch, and delicate in her intonations, reverberating into near-Cockney working-class tone. The unlikely combination is surprisingly pleasing, nicely matching the contrast between Obreht's elaborate storytelling conceit and its grubby, homely details. A Random hardcover.

    • Publisher's Weekly

      Starred review from January 17, 2011
      The sometimes crushing power of myth, story, and memory is explored in the brilliant debut of Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker's 20-under-40. Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia. Obreht is an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right. Obreht is talented far beyond her years, and her unsentimental faith in language, dream, and memory is a pleasure.

    • Kirkus

      January 15, 2011
      Young physician navigating postwar chaos in the Balkans tries to make sense of the mysterious death of her beloved grandfather.

      En route to a rural orphanage with plans on inoculating a group of motherless local kids, 28-year-old Natalia gets the sudden, sad news that her grandfather, a well-respected doctor, has passed away. That he died far from home, in a village that appears on no map, raises several questions, in spite of the fact that the old man had been suffering from cancer. Natalia takes it upon herself to investigate the clinic he was last seen in, and collect his affects, while trying to fulfill her medical obligations to the orphans. A clear-eyed realist who came of age during the bloody dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, she is nonetheless enchanted by a story from her grandfather's childhood, which is interwoven with the modern-day narrative. During World War II, his tiny hometown was menaced by a semi-tame tiger who had escaped from a zoo. According to legend, the animal was befriended by the butcher's wife, a young deaf-mute who fed him meat. After her abusive husband disappears, the superstitious villagers suspect that the beast himself is the father of her unborn child, complicating life for the tiger as well as the girl, who happens to be Muslim. They send a famed hunter after the tiger, who, like the butcher, assumes an uncertain fate. In a timeless parallel, the modern-day villagers that Natalia is trying to help have a mystical tale of their own, and she is enlisted to help them find closure in a most unusual way. Haunted as it is by the specter of civil war, this confident debut steers clear of specific blame for any particular group, concentrating instead on the stories people tell themselves to explain the unthinkable. While at times a bit too dense and confusing, Obreht's remarkable story showcases a young talent with a bright future.

      A compassionate, mystical take on the real price of war.

      (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

    • Library Journal

      Starred review from January 1, 2011

      In the torn-up Balkans, as medic Natalia is preparing to cross what was once not a border to help vaccinate orphans, she learns that her distinguished physician grandfather has died in an obscure clinic not far from where she's going. No one knows what he was doing there, though Natalia does know he was seriously ill. This incident opens up Obreht's dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, muscularly written narrative by allowing Natalia to introduce two stories (fables? truth?) that her grandfather related to her. One concerns the "deathless man" her grandfather sometimes encountered, who collected the souls of the dead. The other concerns a tiger that escaped from the zoo during World War II and made its way to the village where her grandfather lived as a boy. Attempts to kill the tiger fail, but the butcher's abused, deaf-mute wife seems mystically connected to the great beast, rousing the villagers' fear and anger. That tiger--and others seen later at the zoo--looms here as a symbol of defiant, struggling hope as the deathless man continues his task. VERDICT Demanding one's full attention, this complex, humbling, and beautifully crafted debut from one of The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 is highly recommended for anyone seriously interested in contemporary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/10.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

      Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

    • Lorrie Moore, New Yorker online
      "Of the books I read this year by people I've never laid eyes on, the most peculiar and brilliant may have been The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht. Constructed from anecdote and fable, it is sometimes written in a kind of medical poetry, its main characters being doctors whose attention to the permeable line between life and death suits the tales of old and new Yugoslavia that Obreht wishes to tell."
    • NPR.org, Alan Cheuse's Top 5 Fiction Picks of 2011 "Stunning...Obreht writes with an angel's pen on this tiger's tale within the novel, and on myriad other matters, from birth, death and immortality, creating a skein of descriptive passages flush with brilliant detail and ringing with lyrical diction."
    • Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune Editor's Choice "Attention all book groups: The Tiger's Wife is an ideal book for discussion, and not only because of the handy reader's guide included, or because of the nifty conversation between Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan and Tea Obreht...A beguiling blend of realism, myth and legend, this novel possesses a presence and force, essential ingredients for a novel that is very much rooted in reality yet transcends time."
    • Colum McCann "Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years."
    • T. C. Boyle "A novel of surpassing beauty, exquisitely wrought and magical. Téa Obreht is a towering new talent."
    • Ann Patchett "A marvel of beauty and imagination. Téa Obreht is a tremendously talented writer."
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