Late last year book blogger Rachel Meier – who had gotten hold of an early copy of "The Tiger's Wife" by 25-year-old first-time novelist Téa Obreht – wrote the following words: "Though [Obreht's] skill-to-age ratio may make you want to toss your laptop against a wall (no, you will never be this good), you should read her debut novel anyway."
Meier went on to correctly predict that "The Tiger's Wife" "is the book that everybody will be talking about [next] season." How right she was. In addition to receiving rave reviews throughout the US, "The Tiger's Wife" is now the novel that has been awarded the the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, making Obreht, at 25, the youngest writer ever to win the coveted prize for English-language fiction by women.
"The Tiger's Wife" is the story of a young doctor in the Balkans who travels back into her grandfather's past to unravel the mysteries behind a pair of stories he used to tell. Monitor reviewer Yvonne Zipp wrote of the novel that, "Obreht layers story upon story, creating something almost as dense as a baklava."
Orbeht, who was born in the former Yugoslavia but has lived in the US since she was 12, will receive a check for $49,000 and a statue called "the Bessie."
Other finalists for this year's prize had included Emma Donoghue, Aminatta Forna, Emma Henderson, Nicole Krauss, and Kathleen Winter. The oddsmakers had favored Irish author Donoghue who was nominated for her novel "Room." But while Donoghue did win the Orange Prize Youth Panel (voted on by six teenage readers), Obreht was the one to take home this year's big prize.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's Books editor.