The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife

A Novel

Book - 2011
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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.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [2011]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9780385343831
Branch Call Number: FIC OBREHT 2011
Characteristics: 337 pages ; 22 cm


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From Library Staff

A physician’s personal mission to understand why her grandfather ceaselessly sought a man who claimed to be immortal leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife. Fiction.

From the critics

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May 26, 2020

I found this book a little tedious. The plot isn't strong enough to tie the stories in each chapter together, nor do the stories themselves provide any deeper insights into life. The writing is competent, but the effect is ho-hum.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Dec 16, 2019

Magic realism and a historical tale in a unique setting. A couple of my favorite things. I understand why this is showing up on readalike lists for Disappearing Ms. Obreht has a new novel out this year: Inland.

Nov 03, 2019


Jul 03, 2019

Each chapter is beautifully written but the connection between the chapters is disorganized. It never provides true resolution re: her grandfather, the deathless man and her own story as a doctor. Not sure I would recommend this. Often time, confusing secondary to lack of fluency from story to story.

Jul 01, 2019

I can’t rate this as I never understood anything about it.

Feb 12, 2019

Ugh, two stars, but only because some of the folk stories were interesting. The purpose for this girls journey is never resolved, but the author wraps it up like she has covered everything and you should feel transformed by this book. Just no. I think this book has so much hype because it appears really high brow, but apparently I'm not alone in being frustrated here. And no, I dont want to have to read interviews with the author and discussions in order to understand this book.

Jun 29, 2017

This was a fascinating, disturbing, suspenseful, thought-provoking novel. The author writes of the wars in the Balkans and their after- effects in the in a very realistic and believable way, without ever giving any real names of towns or "sides," but still gives enough local and historical detail that it made me want to learn more about that region. The central relationship between the grandfather and granddaughter is well written and touching. The mysteries surrounding her grandfather's death and youth were fascinating. I would have liked this book more if there weren't so many unanswered questions at the end, and if there was less violence towards the end of the novel. I also didn't like that the author seems to want to deliberately leave us hanging at the end... what part of the stories the grandfather told were real and what wasn't? I like magic realism, and I think it could have worked in this story, but instead it was divided almost completely between concrete present day reality and the magical stories of her grandfather's youth and early career. At the same time there are enough "maybe it is real" parts towards the end that it gets kind of annoying: either let us know what is real and what isn't, or stop teasing us with the "what ifs." *Spoiler alert* The last part about the tiger living in the woods, mourning his "wife"... that was sort of weird, it seems impossible that a tiger could live that long. I generally like backstories, but in the case of the butcher and the hunter, rather than making them more sympathetic characters, their backstories made it even more disturbing that two men who were sensitive and thoughtful in their youth could be capable of so much violence. The last third or so of the book seemed really violent, especially the treatment of the deaf-mute girl, who is never even given a name! I would have liked to learn more about her character and motivations, but we aren't given much beyond the sympathy and understanding between her and the tiger. Some of the loose ends that I wanted answered were: Did the apothecary deliberately poison the tiger's wife with the drink he sent with her grandfather, and if so, why? Why didn't the townsman know or care where the tiger's wife was buried? Was the person at the crossroads that Natalie encounters the "deathless man" or just someone keeping old beliefs alive? Why couldn't the butcher have said "This isn't the woman I asked to marry, you tricked me" and get on with his life? What really is the point of the two stories? Does the deathless man represent the grandfather's changing attitude toward death as he ages? What is the point of the tiger's wife story? I know the ambiguity makes the story more relate-able to real life in a way, but for my leisure reading I don't want this amount of uncertainty.

multcolib_susannel Mar 07, 2017

When her grandfather disappears, Natalia travels to a strange country to find him, using the stories he used to tell her as a map.

Jan 28, 2017

A very different kind of story, with an intertwining of myth and present-day stories. The setting is in the Balkans and the history and culture is a felt experience in the stories of this novel. There are classical themes brought to vivid life in the characters and places of the story. A pleasure to read.

Jun 08, 2016

A beautifully told story - the movement from one storyline to the next was sometimes confusing, but the imagery was vivid and striking.

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Nov 05, 2011

It took him a long time to ask, “Been around children much?” He wasn’t looking at me, so he didn’t see me shrug. After a while, I shrugged again, tapped my book with a pencil. Eventually, I asked: “Why?” He sat up, pushed his chair away from the table and rubbed his knees. “When men die, they die in fear,” he said. “They take everything they need from you, and as a doctor it is your job to give it, to comfort them, to hold their hand. But children die how they have been living—in hope. They don’t know what’s happening, so they expect nothing, they don’t ask you to hold their hand—but you end up needing them to hold yours. With children, you’re on your own. Do you understand?

DesPlainesReaders May 07, 2011

“These stories run like secret rivers through all the other stories”


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DesPlainesReaders May 07, 2011

Amid the war-scarred landscape of a fictionalized Balkan country, a young doctor, Natalia, faces superstition and secrecy on a humanitarian trip to an orphanage across the border. At the same time, she searches for the truth of her grandfather's mysterious final days and his solitary death in a small country village. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, we learn, “the forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death.” During that time, it will “make its way to the places of its past.” Natalia must return home with her grandfather's personal effects before those forty days pass so that his soul can find its way. Des Plaines Readers' Services/Ms_Fitz


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