The Tiger’s Wife was the perfect book to get me from Pensacola to Seattle, and through the Atlanta airport, full of bustle on a Sunday, packed flights, no quiet, no privacy. Thank God for a good, engrossing book, that takes you totally out of where you are to a world where things are not always what they seem.
The book is set in an unnamed country in East Europe which has just come out of a war, and the main character and her best friend are en route across a border which did not exist before the war, on an aid mission to immunize children who were once neighbors, and are now in a different country.
The primary relationship in the book is the bond between a young girl and her grandfather, and the stories he tells her as they walk up to the zoo, the Jungle Book he reads to her as they visit the animals, and the stories she finds for herself as she participates in the post-war rebuilding. It is a fascinating book because what she is writing about is not always what she is really writing about; the stories and legends and experiences are metaphors for another reality and a life lesson.
I don’t want you to think that this is one of the mindless airport books I sometimes tell you about. If it were, I would tell you “this is not great literature; this is an airport read.” Not this book. This book is literature. This book has meaning, and events you will think about and talk over with other readers long after you have finished the book.
In the back of The Tiger’s Wife is an interview in which one of my favorite new authors, Jennifer Egan (A Visit From the Good Squad) interviews Tea Obreht about her writing process, her life, her vision, etc. Fascinating reading, too, and also reader’s guide questions help you see things you might need to see and might otherwise miss.