Two more reasons why we read
Written by
Eugenia Kim
May 2011
Written by
Eugenia Kim
May 2011

Touch by Alexi Zentner

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht


I pair these two stunning books in this essay for several reasons, the least of which is I read them back to back. Though I had earlier heard of both books through different venues, I met Alexi Zentner and Téa Obreht together when we served on a panel at a conference last February. I learned they were former students of friend, fellow teacher and stellar writer, Paul Lisicky, and they are also close friends of each other. I imagine them as students during the long hard road of writing a novel, reading and commenting on each other’s work, being intimate with portions of each other’s books in only the way that great writing friends can be.

Touch and The Tiger’s Wife are being widely reviewed and applauded as debut works that herald significant literary talent. I agree with this perception, and highly recommend both works. What struck me are the similarities in the two books, both in the approach and structure, mastery of voice, a grandfather main character, gentle touches of naturalist mysticism, and sense of history and place. This former graphic designer notes that even their physical size is nearly the same, as is the book typeface. I must stress these similarities don’t diminish whatsoever each book’s originality; think of the myriad of excellent coming-of-age stories, or love stories, or mother-daughter stories, all unique according to what the author creates within those book boards.

Partly because I’m presently struggling with structural issues in my own current work, I noticed in particular how these stories move and are organized. More…

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