Winner, 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction
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 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 weeklytrips 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.
“Téa Obreht’s stunning debut novel, The Tiger’s Wife, is a hugely ambitious, audaciously written work that provides an indelible picture of life in an unnamed Balkan country still reeling from the fallout of civil war. . . . Ms. Obreht creates an indelible sense of place, a world, like the Balkans, haunted by its past and struggling to sort out its future, its imagination shaped by stories handed down generation to generation; its people torn between ancient beliefs and the imperatives of what should be a more rational present. In doing so, Ms. Obreht has not only made a precocious debut, but she has also written a richly textured and searing novel.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Obreht’s writing is gorgeous, descriptive, and strong, creating vivid, unforgettable visions of unique settings. . . . The Tiger’s Wife is a meditation on death, love, and war in the modern world. . . . For mature teen readers, the time spent savoring the writing, the stories, and the intricacies of their connections will be well rewarded.”
—School Library Journal
"...The Tiger's Wife in its solemn beauty and unerring execution, fully justifies the accolades that Ms. Obreht's short fiction inspired. She has a talent for subtle plotting that eludes most writers twice her age, and her descriptive powers suggest a kind of charmed genius. No novel this year has seemed more likely to disappoint; no novel has been more satisfying." —Wall Street Journal
“[A] brilliant debut…[Téa] 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.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Not even Obreht’s place on The New Yorker’s current “20 Under 40” list of exceptional writers will prepare readers for the transporting richness and surprise of this gripping novel of legends and loss…[Contains] moments of breathtaking magic, wildness and beauty…Every word, every scene, every thought is blazingly alive in this many-faceted, spellbinding, and rending novel of death, succor, and remembrance.” —Booklist, starred review
“Dizzyingly nuanced yet crisp, [and] muscularly written…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.” —Library Journal, starred review
“A cracking, complex, gorgeously wrought saga that resonates as a meditation on life, love…and our responsibility to the stories we inherit from our grandparents…Obreht is a natural literary descendant of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Gabriel Garcia Marquez….The Tiger’s Wife is an original and wonderful novel…It makes for a thrilling beginning to what will certainly be a great literary career.” —Kate Christensen, Elle
“Deftly walks the line between the realistic and the fantastical…In Obreht’s expert hands, the novel’s mythology, while rooted in a foreign world, comes to seem somehow familiar, like the dark fairy tales of our own youth, the kind that spooked us into reading them again and again…[Reveals] oddly comforting truths about death, belief in the impossible, and the art of letting go.” —O: The Oprah Magazine
“Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years.” —Colum McCann
“A novel of surpassing beauty, exquisitely wrought and magical. Téa Obreht is a towering new talent.” —T. C. Boyle
“A marvel of beauty and imagination. Téa Obreht is a tremendously talented writer.” —Ann Patchett
“One of the most extraordinary debut novels of recent memory…A gorgeous farrago of stories in which realism collides with myth, superstition with empirical fact, and allegory with history…Obreht elides the sentimental Chagall villages that other writers have made of Eastern Europe, crafting instead something far more ambitious, and universal: an apotheosis of storytelling as a bulwark against brutality – and a balm for grief.” —Vogue
WINNER 2011 - Orange Prize
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.