Around the World for a Good Book selection for Serbia
Author: Téa Obreht
Title: The Tiger’s Wife
Narrator: Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2011)
Téa Obreht’s debut novel mixes together folklore and magical realism with the grim realities of the war-torn Balkan region in this story set in fictionalized Balkan nation. The framing story is told by Natalia, a doctor on an errand of mercy who reminisces about her recently deceased grandfather who was also a doctor. Natalia’s story is intercut with the story her grandfather told her about his many encounters with The Deathless Man, who claimed he couldn’t die and couldn’t age. A third story is intertwined about a Muslim girl who was deaf and mute and a child bride in Natalia’s grandfather’s childhood hometown. She befriends a tiger that escapes from a zoo during World War II and becomes known as The Tiger’s Wife by the superstitious villagers.
I confess that the shifting narratives and points of view threw me off a bit, but that’s more of a reader’s error than any fault of the book. Obreht magnificently deploys magical realism in a narrative that attempts to unlock memory in a land torn apart by violence. She also tells a story of a family over time that parallels the region’s experience with death and war.