The prose that critics call “luminous” tends to be of the light-reflecting-on-the-water variety: It shimmers prettily but doesn't illuminate much. Tea Ohreht's The Tiger's Wife has been dubbed “luminous” by The New York Times, and the novel – her first, a National Book Award finalist – at times gets caught up in inconsequential beauties, birdspotting its own war-torn settings and fawning over the herbs of a grandmother not even in the chapter. But when Ohreht gets down to actual storytelling, mining myth and memory to examine life in a freshly split-up Balkan country, that shimmering becomes steady, revealing light. The new century hasn't brought us great war novels, but the post-war novel – fractured and skittish, like this one – probably has more to tell us anyhow. Ohreht's fairy stories can lift your heart into your throat; her tiger, freed by the war from its zoo but now unable to live as it had before, can seize that same heart and break it.
Sat., Jan. 14, 7 p.m., 2012