Book Review: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”): I am on the search for the best female authors. As you can see, this doesn’t stop me from reading male authors, it is just a pet project of mine. The book blurb included notes lauding Ms. Obreht as a rising star and I thought I would give her a try.


The book takes us on a journey through memory, war, strife, mysticism, bone-jarring reality, and the ties that bind us to this earth, to each other and to our families.

My attempts to summarize the plot or the story of this book all came up short, lacking the flow and depth of the many strands Obreht weaves into her storytelling. The book’s website offers a good overview, check it out. If you are interested in the power of personal and community persuasion, the power of enduring human love, and the effects of war on a person, read The Tiger’s Wife.

Best Excerpts:

“That first year, following one trapper and then another, Dariša became a hunter. They say he fell to hunting as if he had been born for it; but perhaps it was the possibility of having a purpose again that fueled him to adopt his new life with such ferocious energy and dedication.” p. 254


This line speaks about the energy that arises when the mind connects to a purpose and puts the body to work on accomplishing the end of that purpose. The author goes on to talk about the feats Dariša accomplished, so wonderful that his status became more of an image of a man, rather than a real person. This image matters in societies that still depended on the community structure of support and livelihood.

“Whether or not Dariša took the precaution of burying his weapons somewhere in the forest is irrelevant. Suffice it to say that he made an impressive sight, all five foot seven of him, disappearing into the forest unarmed, with the great bear pelt rolling over his shoulders.” p. 255

“When your fight has purpose–to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent–it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling–when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event–there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.” p. 283

A theme I am hearing a lot about here in Sicily: Eating for today. In this instance, the villagers are eating on the eve of war battles striking their town; in Sicily, I’ve been hearing about eating for today but planning other aspects of life for eternity.

“I go down into Sarobor, and it’s deserted. Night is falling. Up and down the Turkish quarter, you can hear our en shelling the factory out in the Marhan valley, and you can see the lights over the hill. You can tell what’s coming next, you know what’s coming. Everyone knows, so no one is outside, and there are no lights in the windows. There’s a smell of cooking–people are sitting down to dinner in the dark. There’s a rich dinner smell that makes me think of that irrational desire that comes over you when it is almost the end–instead of saving for a siege they’re feasting in the houses along the river, they’ve got lamb and potatoes and yogurt on their tables. I can smell teh mint and the olives, and sometimes when I pass the windows I can hear frying. It makes me think of the way your grandma used to cook while we lived in Sarobor, standing by the window with the big willow tree outside.” p. 285

people would turn first to superstition to find meaning”  – is talked about here, is that still true today? 

“Serving as Bling Orlo’s eyes, the apothecary learned to read white lies, to distinguish furtive glances between secret lovers that would precipitate future weddings, to harness old family hatreds dredged up in fireside conversations that allowed him to foresee conflicts, fights, sometimes even murders. He learned, too, that when confounded by the extremes of life–whether good or bad–people would turn first to superstition to find meaning, to stitch together unconnected events in order to understand what was happening. He learned that, no matter how grave the secret, how imperative absolute silence, someone would always feel the urge to confess, and an unleashed secret was a terrible force.” p. 312


ISBN: 978-0-385-34384-8

Book website: Tea Obreht



Filed under Book Review, Media

4 responses to “Book Review: The Tiger’s Wife, by Téa Obreht

  1. Katie T

    I’m about to finish reading Doc: A Novel, by Mary Doria Russel. Not only is it a good read, but it is a Western written by a woman.

    The Tiger’s Wife is on my long book list. I might have to move it up toward the top now.

    • I will add the Russel novel to my immediate reading list. I am currently re-reading Freedom (Jonathan Franzen) for book club at the end of January. I became enamored with Franzen when I read The Corrections while I was waiting for Freedom to become available at my library last year. I think The Corrections is slightly better, but overall I like both books a lot. There is something so wrong about them, but it is wrong in a way that makes you feel very alive and real, and icky, all at once. Plus, I enjoy the midwest focus.

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