The sometimes crushing power of myth, story, and memory is explored in the brilliant debut of Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker's 20-under-40. Natalia Stefanovi, a doctor living (and, in between suspensions, practicing) in an unnamed country that's a ringer for Obreht's native Croatia, crosses the border in search of answers about the death of her beloved grandfather, who raised her on tales from the village he grew up in, and where, following German bombardment in 1941, a tiger escaped from the zoo in a nearby city and befriended a mysterious deaf-mute woman. The evolving story of the tiger's wife, as the deaf-mute becomes known, forms one of three strands that sustain the novel, the other two being Natalia's efforts to care for orphans and a wayward family who, to lift a curse, are searching for the bones of a long-dead relative; and several of her grandfather's stories about Gavran Gailé, the deathless man, whose appearances coincide with catastrophe and who may hold the key to all the stories that ensnare Natalia. 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 WeeklyI read a snippet of this story in The Best Non-Required American Reading 2010 and was curious about the rest of the story. Plus I sat through a Book Buzz session at ALA Conference and heard about the rave reviews. Also Obreht being picked as part of the New Yorker's 40 under 40 list also made me want to read the book.
The prologue really captures the reader and draws you into the story. The prose is well written and very descriptive. I was fascinated by the two stories told by her grandfather. I was expecting all the stories to connect and relate to each other so much that I got distracted from the plot while trying to figure out the connection.
This book definitely made me think a bit after I was done reading. Even though the subplots were explained and explored a bit, I wanted more. I wanted to learn more about the main character and what happens to her after she processes her grandfather's death. Check out Scott Simon's interview with Tea Obreht.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on this book. My fiance Patrick read it as well and will be posting his review in the next week or so.