Tag Archives: mythology

Review: The Tiger’s Wife

Recap: Myth, fantasy, and reality collide in this fictional story about a girl dealing with the loss of her grandfather as she travels through the Balkan countries. Natalia — a doctor — is there to help  sick, war-stricken children. But as she interacts with the children, priests, farmers, and fellow doctors, she remembers the stories her grandfather used to tell her, particularly the one about the tiger’s wife.

Her grandfather had a special love for jungle animals — especially the tiger — because of his obsession with Jungle Book. He used to  tell Natalia about the first tiger he ever saw, as a child in his small village. He told her the tiger had a wife — a deaf, mute woman who was accused of killing her very human husband, Luka. Along with this story, Natalia also remembers her grandfather’s tale about the deathless man.

All the while, war rages on in the Balkans. Natalia tries to help as many children as she can, while also attempting to make sense of what’s real in these fables and what’s not.

Analysis: In doing some research of The Tiger’s Wife, it’s clear that the book is praised and well-liked for Tea Obreht’s interwoven mythical stories, details about the Balkan wars, and her own personal journey. But I disliked the book for the same reasons it gets praise.

I found the various stories and tales to be confusing and jarring. In detailing Natalia’s personal journey, Obreht would suddenly go back to a tale about the tiger’s wife or the deathless man. It took time for me to realize that Obreht had changed focuses to another subplot. Each chapter seemed to be a short story in and of itself, giving the overall book a disjointed feel. It made it difficult for me to keep track of characters’ names and their connections to Natalia and her grandfather. I found myself regularly flipping back through pages and chapters to refresh my memory on certain stories and characters.

And what’s worse; to some degree, I finished the book almost feeling as though nothing had happened. The end was ambiguous, and the story never seemed to reach a climactic moment. I kept waiting for it, but it didn’t come. The biggest plot twist came during the tale of the tiger’s wife, but in my mind, that story was mostly a myth, not something to be taken seriously.

And on top of it all, Obreht’s writing was difficult to follow. Typically, a writer’s actual writing doesn’t bother me; it’s the content I like to critique. But in this case, I couldn’t be more perturbed by the author’s lengthy, complex sentences.

MVP: The deathless man. Of all the plots and subplots in this book, the story of the deathless man was my favorite. His mystery intrigued, and I also enjoyed the relationship he developed with Natalia’s grandfather through their various meetings over the years. This mystical man was the highlight of the novel for me; he was the only part that left me wanting more.

**Note: After doing more research, I’ve also learned that this novel is praised for its use of magical realism. But in my opinion, only a great writer can truly pull off that genre, and Obreht did not with The Tiger’s Wife.

Get The Tiger’s Wife for just $9.

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An Interview with Author Ed Newman

Haunted houses, scorpions, and teenagers. It sounds like the rumblings of your typical tween science fiction novel, but it isn’t. The debut novel, The Red Scorpion, from Ed Newman — who is generally known for his short stories — deals with all these topics. But Newman combines them in an mature, adult fiction kind of way.

The scene of the story is set with Book One — a professor and researcher travels to Mexico to follow up on some well-known myths. But along the way, he comes across a dangerous breed of red scorpions. His naive, but curious demeanor encourages him to bring a scorpion back home. And so begins an 80-year haunted house story with a twist. The house isn’t haunted with ghosts, but scorpions.

I reached Newman via email and spoke with him about some of the themes of the story, how he came to publish his first novel, and why he found it important to make it strictly available as an e-book.

Q: In your afterward, you talk about how you got the idea for this story. You said that it started out as a dream you had about the action sequence at the end. But those who read it know the story deals with a lot of different themes — fear, adolescence, bullying, even mythology. How did you develop the initial sequence you had in mind into the story it became?

A: Good question. I think all creativity is a form of problem solving. Many of my stories have emerged from dreams over the years, but only this one became a book. The idea required developing a backstory, and as I mulled over where the red scorpion came from  I drew from my experiences living in Mexico in 1981. Making a haunted house story came from my experiences as a teen exploring abandoned houses, always imagining something dark about the place. Unrestrained imagination is like weather patterns. You don’t really control them, you just go with whatever is stirred up.

Q: I was very intrigued by Book One. Did you ever think of developing that a little more? And, what made you decide to tell the story this way — in two parts?

A: Book one was originally a middle section called book two. I had attempted to write it as a diary, but there were too many loose ends that a diarist couldn’t really touch on so I wrote it as a first person account telling what was in the diary. Finally I re-wrote this as a third person account and liked it better, but ultimately decided to make it book one for the purpose of set-up. Maybe this came about as a temporary aversion to the overuse of flashback in films.

Q: At the end of your afterward, you allude to a sequel. Do you have one in the works? If so, what can we expect?

A: Well, I do not have a fully fleshed out sequel, but imagined that there could be some kind of news story that Dusty, now a couple years older, connects to the red scorpion. In the sequel Chuchui, the youth who betrayed his tribe, is now an elderly man who has an empire of some kind. He used his education for evil and has become corrupted by power perhaps. It could play on the drug wars and violence south of the border as a continuation of No Country For Old Men.

Q: After writing short stories for years, this is your first novel. How does it feel to finally get a long-form story out there?

A: A bit like giving birth. A lot of labor pains at the end. Gratifying, of course, since I carried this thing for such a long, long time.

Q: Why did it take so long to make it happen?

A: I work full time and it simply takes a lot of energy to produce a book length manuscript. Stories and articles and blog entries are so much easier to dream up, assemble and release. It takes a special degree of motivation to tackle a book. I was not motivated by money since most books fail to really get a serious return. My aim was to create a Lord of the Flies type book that all the kids on my son’s school bus would be reading when he was a senior in high school. I got serious about the book when he was a freshman or thereabouts. It never happened that way – he is 25 now – but this was the driving force that helped me finish the project. When I failed to get a publisher I set it aside until picking it back up this summer as an endeavor that needed closure so I could move on.

Q: Your book is only available in e-book version. What lead to your decision to just do it as an e-book?

A. Ten or so years ago my father-in-law wrote a wonderful World War II memoir called And There Shall Be Wars. Over 500 pages, 176 original photos and more. He self-published after we made endless attempts to find a publisher. The 2000 books he printed cost $9,000 dollars. A majority of those books are still in boxes in my garage.

Ultimately, the week before our book launch I was persuaded by a publisher friend to print 50 copies for people who come to our book launch party. The economics of such short runs doesn’t make sense though and I have no interest in leaving a garage full of books for my heirs.

The real impetus for going virtual with our book is that I have at least four more books in the pipeline, and that Amazon announced that they have sold more e-books than printed books this year, a first, and a foretaste of the future.

The Red Scorpion is available now for just $2.99.

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