Blood Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
who's lost her shoes?
The Tiger's Wife
I can't remember a year more heavily dominated by terrific first novels. Just looking at my list, have five in my top ten, and I'm not alone. Of The New York Times Book Review's five best fiction works of 2011, four were first novels with Stephen King as the noted veteran. One of those NYT best books is Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife.
Since the beginning of the year, I've engaged in an ongoing debate with a bookseller friend about which book--The Tiger's Wife or Swamplandia! by Karen Russell--would win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He was right--The Tiger's Wife was a finalist for the National Book Award (and I still think that Swamplandia! will win the Pulitzer).
The 25 year-old Tea Obreht writes much more maturely than her age suggests, and The Tiger's Wife is the novel most writers never manage to achieve. It is splendid--a literary work with passion and memorable characters and beautiful storytelling. Blending history, family, and folklore, The Tiger's Wife tells the story of a young doctor, Natalia, grieving for her grandfather's death through the memory of his stories. Interwoven is the history of the Balkans from World War II to the present, her grandfather's love of Kipling's The Jungle Book, and of the tiger wandering through the darkness. This is a book of secrets and family and love. It's a masterpiece.