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Remembering childhood stories her grandfather once told her, young physician Natalia becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for "the deathless man," a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.
(Caution: Contains just a few tiny spoilers. Nothing big.) This got off to a little bit of a slow start for me, and kept crossing odd boundaries between "supposed to be real," that is, internally believable, and "can't quite suspend disbelief enough." The author did a great job of telling how stories get expanded in the telling, and of having the narrator (who you eventually figure out is the granddaughter Natalia) explain how the stories in her grandfather's village came to be. So that part works for me.
But then I can't quite reconcile that with the tiger's wife and the deathless man, and figure out whether those are stories to be believed, or are stories that are being told and retold already (within the context of this novel, of course). And I still can't figure out how the tiger's wife and the deathless man are connected *to each other,* if they even are. They are so important that it seems like they must be.
I definitely need a book club discussion on this one! But once the story got rolling, it was well told and kept me interested enough to be glad I was reading it. Interesting and occasionally thought-provoking. Plenty of fodder for discussion. See what you think.
This book got a huge amount of buzz when it first came out, fueled by great reviews from venerable sources like the New Yorker, and surprise at the age (26) of the author. She writes beautifully, capturing the feeling of loss for the days of her childhood and infusing the folk tale sections with a light sense of magic otherness.
It's a postmodern novel that shifts points of views - it can be a little hard to follow. My approach was just to read, read, read and let the book wash over me. It does make sense, it just jumps around, to the story of the tiger's wife and the deathless man, to her medical training and her memories with her grandfather. Everything is connected, it's just not a perfectly linear storytelling style.
I can't believe no one has rated this! I don't even know where to begin. The level of intricacy and beauty that 26-year-old Obreht has achieved with in this novel is absolutely stunning. You WILL get hooked, even if you think the book starts off slow. Just wait till you reach the part about the deathless man! Whoa! The mystery and suspense is anything but expected and you will not be able to predict much if anything at all. The imagery Obreht is capable of producing in your mind will seriously blow you away; she manages to bring to life the chilling beauty of Eastern Europe that peaks through the cold harsh wars that have wrecked havoc on these various countries over the years. Although she makes a few geographical references, she is for the most part vague, in what I believe to be an attempt at staying clear of showing any one point of view and instead illustrate that everyone hurts during a war, regardless of their nationalities. Riddled with and somewhat based up classic (what I believe to be Hungarian) myths and folktales, this novel is one of elegance, illusion, fear, and bravery, all gracefully woven together on the canvas of tragedy that struck the Balkan region during the 1990s.