The Tiger's Wife

It's been about a year since I've actually read this book, but interestingly and despite the fact that I live in Louisiana, every time I see a tiger's image I think of this book. (Louisiana's state university has a tiger as it's mascot)
I remember having mixed feelings for this novel, leaning heavily towards "awe." This is Obreht's first novel, and it is amazing in that regard. She's only a few years older than I am and writes like a master, so in a sense I'm very jealous of her success and raw talent. However, it's pretty clear that despite these things, she's still a young writer. She makes some almost unavoidable "mistakes" with the story that could have made the book better. I think some readers might not have minded those choices, but I didn't like it.
Let me explain. She's really telling two stories in one book, but they sometimes dissolve into more than that. That's pretty normal, but a device I've always found a little frustrating because the chapters are played out like a game of leap frog, flip-flopping from cliff hanger to cliff hanger, repeatedly, over and over again. As is often the case with books arranged this was, there will always be one story line I'm far more interested in. The Tiger's Wife was a great example of this. There was one story line that I really cared about. I would have liked the other story lines not to have existed at all, but I understand that the entire novel would have suffered without it. I just wish, in a perfect world, it wouldn't have had to work that way.
The Tiger's Wife is about a young Balkan doctor named Natalia, as her country is on the mend. Following her beloved grandfather's mysterious death, she ignores her work responsibilities to try to find answers, which leads her to memories of her grandfather's stories... her grandfather's childhood in a distant village and the Frankenstein-ish story of the tiger that terrorized everyone, and his encounters with the deathless man.
Can you guess which parts I loved the best? If you'd guessed her grandfather's stories, then that's the answer. If I'd met someone like Natalia in real life, I'd be tempted to punch her in the nose. I don't think she's a very likable character. But her grandfather's stories are dark and magical and beautiful. They're the reason why tigers just give me this hushed feeling in my heart... If you're looking for something to take to the beach or read on a plane this summer, consider this book. It's flawed, but it's still beautiful.

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