The Tiger’s Wife

By Téa Obreht. Published in 2011.

The copyright page of The Tiger’s Wife includes the words “Portions of this book appeared previously in The New Yorker in different form”—the tell-tale line reflecting the fact that author Téa Obreht made her name (and quite likely sold her then-unfinished novel) as a short story writer, eventually expanding or repurposing or otherwise adapting a few of her acclaimed stories into her debut novel. That’s not at all uncommon, nor is it a practice exclusive to first-time novelists, but it does sometimes result in novels that feel fragmented rather than whole, with one or two better-polished parts jutting out awkwardly, never quite melting into the larger work.

The Tiger’s Wife is, without question, an episodic novel—one can easily see how individual chapters could have functioned as stand-alone stories—but in this case, the fragmentation works for the novel rather than against it. In many ways, it is a novel about stories: present and past, myth and legend and memory, told and retold and loosely woven together, underlying patterns gradually revealing themselves.