Téa Obreht’s debut, The Tiger’s Wife, was simply stunning. It heralded a truly extraordinary writer and remarkable storyteller so when I learned there was a new novel coming this year I was very excited. What I didn’t expect was a Western but of course in the hands of Téa Obreht that means a Western unlike anything I’ve read before.
The novel is split between two narratives. The first is Lurie. A thief, killer and outlaw. Strangely compelled by the ghosts who haunt him Lurie drifts from town to town, companion to companion. He is tethered to no one and no place. His family is a distant and fading memory and he must stay one step ahead of his pursuers but with no destination ever clearly in mind. The second narrative is Nora who is waiting for her husband to return home with much needed water. Her two eldest sons have ridden off to find news of their father who is two days late in returning and Nora is left behind to take care of her youngest son who is recovering from a recent riding accident. But water maybe the least of Nora’s worries as life on the edge of the territories is full of many different dangers.
Just like The Tiger’s Wife Téa Obreht walks the fragile line between the real and the imagined. The margin between life and death on the frontier is thin at the best of times and Obreht uses this to weave her story between both worlds. Lurie sees lost souls and learns to navigate around them less he is compelled to carry out their desires. Nora’s youngest son Toby is haunted by a mysterious “beast” that is supposedly stalking their homestead and matters are not helped by the family’s ward, Josie, who claims to be able to commune with spirits. Obreht envelopes you in both narratives as Lurie’s past hunts him down and Nora’s future tries to run away from her.
Téa Obreht has written a haunting Western that will carry you away on an incredible and imaginative journey into the frontier of life, death and everything in between.