Amanda Gates

Book: The Tiger's Wife


I read The Tiger’s Wife a couple of months ago. This book made all those Best of 2011 lists (New York Times), so I thought I’d give it a try. I was reluctant because oftentimes I don’t agree with the lists (I’m reading Swamplandia, another on the list and I just don’t get why of all the books from 2011, this one made it…). But, The Tiger’s Wife was a definite exception; I get it.

It’s a moving story that takes place in the past and present of a war-torn Balkan country. The story revolves around the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. He passes on some legends, she searches for the truth—all at different points in time. Animals play a big role in the book, which is quite interesting. You learn of war and borders and death and mysticism.

The author leaves open a lot of loose ends. You close the book wondering just what actually happened. With some books, I hate that. Like, ‘I spent all this time reading and you didn’t wrap it up?’ But, this felt right. There was an author Q&A in the back of my copy and Tea Obreht addresses this issue—it was a difficult decision for her.

One of my book club friends read the book too, so we had a mini book club over email. I thought I’d include our discussion here.


Me: I LOVED the Tiger's Wife, by the way. Even though I'm glad she didn't spell everything out, I still want to know if the Deathless Man knew who she was and if he did in fact come for her grandfather; but I guess that was left up to us to imagine.

Book Club Friend: Me too. I'm glad it was short because I kept thinking, wait did I miss something? and reread passages to see if the details were spelled out. And, no, they weren't. I still don't fully understand why the apothecary killed the Tiger's Wife.

Me: Yeah, I was wondering if it was because he knew as an outsider that she was in for a hard life in that town... Like he was actually saving her or something? A lot of loose ends left, but surprisingly, that didn't keep me from liking it like it might've with another book. The grandfather seemed amazing.

BCF: LOVED the grandfather. I loved the scenes between him and the narrator when she was a teen. So loving and so real.

I thought that, and perhaps as a way of aligning himself with the villagers who watched him die as an outsider anyway. "War makes us all outsiders" was a prevailing theme. So many loose ends ... which did suit the tone of the book.

Me: Can you imagine living that way? I know we've been at war for 10 years, but it's not on our soil. I can't imagine what it would be/will be like if someone was bombing us every day. For 10 years. Ugh. And to have a country divided, and to be "from" both sides of the border? Wow.

BCF: And to have ethnicity all of a sudden mean a lot more than cocktail party chatter ... weird.

I kept expecting the grandmother or even the mother to show up in the stories from the past because there were so many connections, like Luka's intended fiance, the tiger wife's sister, was also the girl that ran off with the deathless man. But the narrator's mother was so absent from everything. I suppose it just wasn't her story.

Me: I liked those past connections a lot. And she had no father? Did they ever mention him? I liked the monk and her friend and wish we knew more of what happened to them. And did she ever say if her grandfather paid his debt? Was The Jungle Book in with his belongings? It makes me want to read that book now! (I've only seen the Disney movie, which must've been way Disney-fied.)

If you read the book (and got to the end of this post), let me know your thoughts!


This Book

I just finished it last night! And no, the Jungle Book was not in with her grandfather's belongings. In one of the final chapters she mentions that she searched for it, but never found it. I took that to mean that he finally gave it to the deathless man.

The chapter where she followed the man to the abandoned village - I found it so chilling, somehow. I could just picture it so clearly.

I agree that there were so many details left out - this could have been a much longer book if they explained more about her life and her mother's life, but I really enjoyed the stories about the past.

This is a perfect book club book. There is so much to discuss.

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