“I’ve come to realize how much specific places have an effect on your mind, your imagination, your relationship to self, the person that you feel you are. You feel these seismic changes in your own psychology.”
Since 2011, when Téa Obreht became the youngest-ever recipient of the Orange Prize for Fiction for her debut novel The Tiger’s Wife, the Belgrade-born novelist has been a writer to watch. Named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty, Obreht has wowed critics and readers with richly developed characters, subtle plot, and evocative sense of place. With her second novel, the New York Times bestseller Inland, which President Barack Obama called “terrific,” Obreht graduated from wildly talented newcomer to one of the finest fiction writers of her generation.
An international bestseller and National Book Award finalist, The Tiger’s Wife is a brilliant latticework of loss, love, and family legend. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called the debut “stunning… a richly textured and searing novel.” Set in an unnamed Balkan nation still reeling from war, The Tiger’s Wife follows a young doctor, Natalia, as she pieces together the mysterious circumstances of her beloved grandfather’s death. In her search for answers, Natalia turns to memories of her grandfather: his ancient copy of The Jungle Book, the visits they took to see the tigers at the zoo, and stories of “the deathless man,” whose appearances are harbingers of catastrophe which may hold the answers to all of Natalia’s questions. Most extraordinary of all, however, is the story Natalia’s grandfather never told her: that of the tiger’s wife.
Publisher’s Weekly praised Obreht as “an expert at depicting history through aftermath, people through the love they inspire, and place through the stories that endure; the reflected world she creates is both immediately recognizable and a legend in its own right.” The Tiger’s Wife was named among the best books of the year by The New York Time Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many others.
“Obreht is the kind of writer who can forever change the way you think about a thing, just through her powers of description.”
—O: The Oprah Magazine
In her “beautifully wrought” (Vanity Fair) second novel, Inland, Obreht plunges her readers into an epic landscape both foreign and familiar: that of the American West. In 1893, two lives unfold in the Arizona Territory, a harsh, lawless place, riddled with drought and ghosts. Nora is a fearless frontierswoman whose husband has disappeared in search of water and whose older sons have vanished in the aftermath of an explosive confrontation. She is alone but for her youngest son, who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking their home. Meanwhile, a former outlaw named Lurie is haunted by lost souls as he begins a momentous westward journey. His death-defying trek eventually intersects with Nora’s path, stirring suspense and surprise in this “sprawlingly ambitious and fully imagined tale” (The San Francisco Chronicle).
Obreht’s spare, powerful prose and exquisite depiction of the American West have won her comparisons to titans of American writing past and present. Writing in The Washington Post, Ron Charles calls Inland “a voyage of hilarious and harrowing adventures, told in the irresistible voice of a restless, superstitious man determined to live right but tormented by his past. At times, it feels as though Obreht has managed to track down Huck Finn years after he lit out for the Territory.” The Guardian describes Inland as “more convincingly Cormac McCarthy than McCarthy himself.” Despite these roots, Inland “feels wholly and unmistakably new” (NPR), “a renewed case for the sustained, international appeal of the American West” (The New Yorker).
“Obreht’s simple but rich prose captures and luxuriates in the West’s beauty and sudden menace. Remarkable in a novel with such a sprawling cast, Obreht also has a poetic touch for writing intricate and precise character descriptions.”
—The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
The novel was also listed among the 100 Must-Read Books of 2019 by TIME, The Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2019, the Best Literary Fiction of 2019 by Library Journal, and the 100 Best Books for Adults of 2019 by the New York Public Library. It was longlisted for both the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Fiction and Dublin Literary Award, and was named a finalist for the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize among other honors.
Readers will get a chance to return to explore the surreal and folkloric world of Obreht’s writing in 2024 with The Morningside. When Silvia and her mother finally land in a place called Island City, after being expelled from their ancestral home in a not-too-distant future, they end up living and working at The Morningside, a crumbling luxury tower where Silvia’s aunt, Ena, has been serving as the superintendent. As Silvia begins seeing the world with magical new possibilities, she becomes obsessed with the mysterious woman who lives in the penthouse of the Morningside, with three massive Rottweilers who may or may not be more than they appear. Silvia’s mission to unravel the truth about this woman’s life, and her own haunted past, will transform her own life in the most unexpected of ways. The novel was adapted from the short story of the same name that was part of (and later started off the print anthology of) The New York Times Magazine‘s pandemic-era Decameron Project.
Obreht’s work has also been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Non-Required Reading, and has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Vogue, Esquire, and Zoetrope: All-Story, among many others. She is a contributor to the anthology, Anonymous Sex, an anthology of erotic short stories that explore the diverse landscape of desire by 27 award-winning authors in which the reader knows who the contributors are, but not which story they wrote.
In addition to a 2016 fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, Obreht received the Rona Jaffe fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the twenty best American fiction writers under forty. She recently served as the Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Texas State University.here.