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Here's what I like about Téa Obreht's debut novel, "The Tiger's Wife": Obreht can write. She can put a sentence together, inhabit characters with lives far different than hers; she can trace the horrors of a war she's never seen. All that is essential, for "The Tiger's Wife" is, after a fashion, a war novel — it takes place after the collapse of communism in an unnamed Eastern European country that has suffered a bloody civil war. "You'd think that, after the war, they would have had enough real skulls to go around," the narrator, a young doctor named Natalia Stefanovic, tells us about the rigors of her medical training; "but they were bullet-riddled skulls, or skulls that needed to be buried so they could wait underground to be dug up, washed, buried again by their loved ones."
Carolyn Kellogg's The Writer's Life: Téa Obreht and "The Tiger's Wife."