As a young girl Natalia adored her grandfather who told her mythic stories as they wandered the zoo in an unnamed Balkan city. She was especially fascinated by stories of a young woman known as the “tiger’s wife.” Grandfather was a respected doctor and professor and always carried the book Jungle Book. Natalia imagined that the tales of the tiger’s wife arose from Kipling’s stories of India. When Natalia is a teenager, war returns to the Balkans. The zoo closes, and a curfew is imposed. Natalia and her friends immerse themselves in “the mild lawlessness” that surrounds them. Among other things, this means spurning her grandfather and dating a young tough who sells black-market contraband. Later she becomes a doctor, following in her grandfather’s footsteps.
The book is filled with a multitude of stories from a superstitious land. I was disappointed that the ending was not more pulled together. But Obreht is a wonderful writer and the book is a great read.