The Tiger’s Wife: Book Review

The Tiger's Wife. A novel by Téa Obreht.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Haunted Family Histories and a Tiger’s Wife

Téa Obreht blurs the line between reality and mythology in The Tiger’s Wife, spanning the majority of a man’s life. That man? The narrator’s grandfather whose influence on her life is profound. Set against the back drop of multiple wars which leave indelible marks on this novel’s diverse cast of characters (including several doctors, a tiger, a taxidermist, a mute girl, a deathless man who judges when others will die, among many others).

The main story line introduces us to Natalia, a young doctor trying to find her way in the dust of the latest war. She has been guided her entire life by her grandfather, a stolid aging doctor with somewhat eccentric routines, including taking his granddaughter to visit the zoo to see the tigers and carrying an old copy of The Jungle Book everywhere he goes.

Natalia learns of her grandfather’s death while traveling to deliver vaccines to children in a rural area of the country and grapples with her guilt of keeping his secret from her grandmother and mother as well as not being with him. Alongside the narrator’s struggle, the twining tales of the deathless man and the tiger’s wife reveal themselves weaving a melancholy story of regret, guilt, hope, and loyalty.

Modern Myth Telling

Tiger’s Wife

I have rarely read such an original attempt at crafting modern myth, fable, fairytale or whatever you want to call the three storylines that this novel contains. Obreht masterfully spins what feels like a timeless tale, as timeless as any story written by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault. The titular tale, The Tiger’s Wife is a novel that could stand on its own. In fact, my one complaint about the book is really that the conclusion made me feel like the grandfather could have been more minor character than main character to the tiger’s wife’s impact on the story overall.

The Tiger’s Wife, so called by superstitious villagers driven to desperation by the threat of war at their border, is an enigma from beginning to end. She is the child bride of the village’s butcher, sold to him when his bride to be elopes under his nose and her desperate father tricks the butcher into marrying his youngest, mute child instead.

The butcher, feeling betrayed and trapped and grappling with his sexuality, becomes violent with the girl. Far away from family and surrounded by the suspicious villagers, she must endure alone. Until she meets the young man, Natalia’s grandfather as a child, who befriends the girl after catching her feeding a tiger who had struck terror into the village lately. The tiger, of course, being the tiger in the Tiger’s Wife, is an escaped zoo animal accustomed to a life of ease and scared from his home by its bombing and starved by his inability to fend for himself in the wild. His attachment to the wife of the butcher is not unusual, except her lack of fear towards the beast.

The grandfather and Tiger’s Wife bond over the tiger, the equivalent of Shere Khan from The Jungle Book (the tome he carries near to his dying days in his jacket) to the child. The fate of the Tiger’s Wife is integral to the grandfather’s story, his guilt for his betrayal, despite his ignorance, scars him for life. This is evident in his continued fascination with the tigers, the book he carries. He has periodic meetings with who he calls the deathless man, a mysterious man who appears to never age and who cannot be killed no matter how earnest the attempt.

The Deathless Man

The deathless man is the second myth/fable/fairytale woven throughout the story. He is the nephew of Death, cursed by a betrayal to his job of reading the cups of people to tell them whether they are dying. The grandfather’s adult life is tracked by these meetings with the deathless man, the meetings always set in a dreamy kind of disbelief.

The deathless man offers insight to the grandfather on death throughout these meetings, revealing he cannot die, and that this is the aforementioned curse. Being a doctor, the grandfather is not unfamiliar with death as a concept, even without his history with the Tiger’s Wife. The connection is truly made by the identity of the deathless man’s wife to the grandfather and deathless man’s choices on those around him. His disobedience touched on the lives of the taxidermist and butcher, the grandfather and Natalia. So many threads in the tapestry of the deathless man’s life.

Flawless Prose

The Tiger’s Wife is an impressive creation. The writing is simply stunning, the descriptions, word choice, originality…truly one of the better books I have read in a while. Being a collector of literary prizes this is not wholly surprising after the fact. I did not expect to enjoy the story as much as I did. I picked up this book after reading about its receipt of the Orange Prize for Fiction in an issue of Writer’s Digest. I have read a couple of other winning novels and really enjoyed them so thought I would give this one a try.

The author exhibits such control over her language and storytelling overall. A difficult thing to do with three tales that must come together by the end. Again the modern myth making was one of my favorite things about this novel. If you love language above all else, this is a book for you.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

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Echo North: Book Review

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer.

A Good Faith Effort for Echo North

Echo North looked like an appealing retelling of the Norse tale and one of my favorite fairy tales, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I quickly added it to my Amazon cart, anticipating a quick, enjoyable read during my maternity leave. The book did not disappoint on being a quick read.

The retelling was done fairly well, just enough originality threaded in to keep it from feeling like every other retelling. It is no East by Edith Pattou but the author made a good effort as an homage. There were some great elements to this story, but the author fell short of fully realizing her story’s potential. Some characters were memorable, but the important ones often felt flat and gray.

[Spoilers Below]

Fairy Tale Retelling

Echo North reimagines the fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, with influences from Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin. I love a good fairy tale retelling, I’m a huge Robin McKinley fan. In some important ways, Echo North was respectful of the genre of YA retellings. However, the YA fairy tale retellings market peaked several years ago and the burden fell on the author to justify this book’s existence so far past the height of the genre’s relevance. While the book was moderately enjoyable, it was also disappointing.

Echo North Highs

What made the book stand out the most was what felt like an underdeveloped plot twist the author just realized at the end of writing the book (and didn’t bother returning to the beginning and middle to fully capitalize on). Although there is something to be said of subtly and surprise twists, this was so out of the blue it was nearly laughable. As such, the dual timelines could have made the book so special had the author taken more time to develop it.

Another high was the main character’s appearance. I like how her angst about her appearance, and the superstition her appearance ignited in those around her, drove the story.

Echo North Lows

Hal, the love interest, is probably the dullest romantic character I’ve ever read. I felt no chemistry between him and Echo and wasn’t necessarily rooting for his rescue by the end of the novel. So Echo could have saved herself 10 years and gone straight home for all the affection they showed each other. There were no heart pounding moments and no knuckle biting romantic scenes that justified Echo’s feelings or actions towards Hal.

Mokosh is perhaps the most underserved character the author introduced. She was interesting, mysterious with a depth I envied for the love interest. Unfortunately the author let this beautiful character’s story fizzle out with no real resolution.

My Rating

3/5 Stars

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4 Years

A little girl who dreamed of fairy tale endings,

never ending stories with heroes who defeat the villains,

I thought you would storm the castle on mounted steed

Delivering true love’s kiss in time to save me.

 

The years bled by and darkness fell

clouding the dreams,

fading to nightmares,

innocence seceding to gray reality.

 

I never learned what true love looked like,

I’d never seen an unconditional bond.

I was told a man would clip my wings,

if I had dreams to guard them jealously.

 

I stopped searching, believing,

that two souls could meet and know

they found the piece of themselves they’d been missing

and their fragmented hearts were finally whole.

 

Singing at a frequency no one else could hear

I wandered through living a colorless life

my voice disappearing in the tempo of years

I almost stopped singing until your whispered reply.

 

I knew when I looked in your eyes,

our songs harmonized,

our bodies magnetized,

I’d met him who could make two one.

 

I never expected the depth of this feeling,

limitless willingness,

terrifying and freeing,

together we’re better than we’d ever be alone.

 

A man of honor in an honor less world,

you proved the grey reality’s boundaries exist.

You make me brave.

Best of all you let me forgive myself.

Daisy Jones & The Six: Book Review

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six Book Cover

Daisy Jones & The Six: Not All About the Music

I should preface this review by saying that I am not a huge fan of 70’s rock. I don’t hate it or avoid it, I am just very lazy when it comes to finding music. While I can appreciate the classics, I am usually content listening to Top 40 hits on the radio. Daisy Jones & The Six (check out the Goodreads synopsis) does not require its readers to love 70’s rock or rock music in general.

This book is about more than rock and roll. (Rock n’ roll?) This is a story about faith, faith in others and faith in ourselves. It is a love triangle but not the obnoxious kind. There are no clear answers and regardless of your personal opinion on Billy Dunne’s choice at the end, nobody leaves totally satisfied. The heartbreak bleeds through to the end, happy ending or no.

Story Format

The book is written as an oral history. Instead of paragraphs or chapters in one POV, each character is speaking to a narrator who is interviewing them. The identity of the narrator revealed until the end was somewhat surprising. I did not see it coming. The author’s choice to write the story as oral history interviews makes sense once the narrator’s identity is revealed. It adds a layer to the story that a traditional past tense 3rd person POV or 1st person POV would not have provided.

The Dunnes

When I picked this book up I had no idea the story would include themes of family or parental sacrifices. When we meet Billy Dunne, he seems like the quintessential rocker, ambitious, dedicated to the sound, shaggy and into drugs. The author throws Camila into his life and she changes the story’s trajectory. Camila is Billy’s serious girlfriend pre-breakout and he marries her once he signs a record contract. Billy is not a family man, he is a man who marries a family woman.

Camila is not a hero. She is a fighter. She is a settler. Camila loves her children more than herself and more than her husband. When he cheats on her and reveals his drug addiction, she refuses to leave him or let him leave her. Again, this is not heroic, but I respected Camila’s tenacity and her continued faith in Billy. Far more women are right to leave their spouses who act in this way, especially when children are involved.

“I think you have to have faith in people before they earn it. Otherwise it’s not faith, right?” Camila says of her commitment to Billy and that defines her place in this story.

Daisy Jones

This is not a book solely about the relationship between Billy and Camila or his addiction and struggle to remain clean.

Daisy Jones is a headstrong, overly talented, under ambitious teen when we meet her. Gorgeous and born into privilege, Daisy has never had to work hard for things she wanted, except her parents’ genuine attention and affection. She is invisible to them unless they need a prop to get ahead professionally. Daisy benefits from a series of opportunities that leads her to meet The Six, including lead singer Billy Dunne.

Daisy, addicted to drugs from a young age, shares the same addiction problems as Billy. This is one of the things they bond over, eventually.

Billy and Daisy’s relationship is complicated. There is attraction, chemistry, in the beginning. Billy’s resistance to their chemistry makes him angry. He keeps his distance as long as possible, knowing inevitably they would end up in a position where that sexual attraction would overpower their professional relationship.

It does and we get a heartbreakingly close yet so far kiss scene when Billy and Daisy finally come together to write the album for a collaboration arranged by their record label. The narrator touts the album as one that would change rock and roll forever.

The Six

The rest of The Six are not satellite characters. They are integral to the story, the band’s success, and the band’s ultimate downfall.

Graham Dunne is Billy’s devout younger brother and band co-founder. He falls head over heels for the band’s keyboardist.

Karen, the keyboardist, remains steadfastly independent throughout the story.

Eddie and Pete are brothers. Eddie is a guitarist, constantly feeling he is competing with Billy Dunne but never admitting there is no competition. Pete is the drummer with no real devotion to the band and a girlfriend back home he stays faithful too.

Warren is the band’s carefree comedic relief, there for the music and the drugs and never taking himself seriously.

The Rise

The Six sign to a record label and release an album prior to teaming up with Daisy Jones. They experience success, largely thanks to Billy’s on-stage charisma and devotion to songwriting.

Teddy, The Six’s manager and Billy’s mentor/father figure, hooks them up with Daisy Jones who released a smaller album of covers prior. Even he could not have foreseen the meteoric rise of The Six with Billy and Daisy’s chemistry.

Billy and Daisy record a single for The Six’s second album and tour with Daisy as their opening act. The tour is a particular struggle for Billy, freshly clean and Camila is pregnant with twins and with a toddler in tow.

Daisy staunchly continues on her path to destruction, drugged out and dating a shady agent who keeps her too doped up to realize she is unhappy with him. But Billy and Daisy on stage when they sing their single is magic.

Those moments where they are together singing cements Daisy’s involvement in the next album and the band’s new name, Daisy Jones & The Six.

The Fall

Despite fame, expanded tour dates, rocketing album sales, and merchandise, Billy and Daisy’s raw attraction causes discord off-stage. They come close to an affair while writing The Six’s third album but Billy pulls away. Daisy realizes she can’t have Billy and Billy realizes he wishes he could have Daisy.

He goes home to his wife and children and the love triangle collapses.

Throughout the relationship drama, the band members feel auxiliary to the band’s success. Billy blows Graham off when he approaches him with an emergency. Graham reevaluates his relationship with his brother and his commitment to the band. Pete confides in Eddie that he is leaving after the third album’s tour to marry his girlfriend and settle down.

Daisy’s drug addiction is the final nail in the coffin for Daisy Jones & The Six. Daisy must look at herself honestly after eloping with an Italian prince she barely knows.

Camila disillusions Daisy of any final hope she may have had of Billy returning her affections.

The album goes platinum and the band breaks up.

Final Thoughts

This was the first genuinely enjoyable book I have read in awhile. A book that is just fun AND good. It wasn’t life-changing. The insights weren’t original necessarily, and the characters won’t be enshrined somewhere for all time. Daisy Jones & The Six is a quick read and enjoyable. Sometimes, that’s all we need from fiction.

My Rating

4/5 Stars

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To the Little Boy with the Cystic Hygroma

This is your heart beat.

A slow steady rhythm marked by flickering white light.

This is the pulse of life.

An erratic fast then slow but pushing on relentlessly.

In the rush of everything, everyone, and everywhere I need to be,

I listen for the thumping in your chest

That sets my steps

And Moves me on despite the setbacks and lacking self-confidence.

I listen for the next beat with bated breath.

Keep beating though the journey is long.

Keep beating though the slog is hard.

Keep beating to guide me where I can hold you in my arms

and become the one who leads you beyond.

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Gospel of Eve (WIP): Quote of the Day

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Gospel of Eve (WIP): Quote of the Day

Adam looked back at me with raised eyebrows. “God placed it here,” he said. “But why?” I pressed. “Why would He place something in the Garden that could hurt us?” Adam did not respond. He seemed unable to, though his jaw moved as if he was considering what he might say. Too late, he shook his head.

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Project title: Gospel of Eve, first draft. Starting word count is zero. Day 30 goal is eighty thousand words. Day 1 word count is two-thousand, seven hundred, and fourteen words. Words written to date is two-thousand, seven hundred, and fourteen words. Percent of goal achieved is three percent. Be my writing buddy on NaNoWriMo, username is PhantasyCreator90. Website URL: www.abookishmama.com