Wednesday, May 23, 2012

THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht

The pace of this book is so tortoise-like that I must have dozed through an early section that described the relationship between Fra Antun and his fisherman father Barba Ivan, and so I had to reread this section to understand the ending.  Our primary narrator is Natalia, a young doctor in war-torn Easter Europe.  She and her friend Nora are bringing medicine to an orphanage.  Natalia's grandfather, whose home she grew up in, has just died, ostensibly on his way to see Natalia.  The grandfather also narrates some sections, as Natalia remembers his stories of encounters with a deathless man.  The book meanders among the histories of several people, including an apothecary, a blacksmith, and the blacksmith's young deaf-mute wife, who comes to be known as "the tiger's wife."  There is, in fact, an escaped tiger, wandering the village and its surrounding forests, who becomes perhaps a pet or protector of the blacksmith's wife.  The main storyline is reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby, when the deaf-mute woman appears to be pregnant, after her husband has vanished, prompting the townspeople to speculate that the baby is half-tiger.  The outcome of the pregnancy was baffling to me, probably as a result of my snoozing through another critical passage, and totally anti-climactic.  Plus, the main storyline becomes increasingly harder to decipher, as more and more personal histories are added to the mix.  This novel is overrated.

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