I loved this book... It was about so much and the stories were all so beautifully told, compassionate and human. It's the kind of book that, once it was over, I felt compelled to turn back the beginning and read it again.
I'm surprised at some of the low ratings. To me, there really is no "main" story--it's a story about many different people who live in the same region. Is it ~super terribly profound~? Well...I mean...not anymore than anything else. (I happen to think that pretty much everything is profound if you are disposed to it.) It's not that Tea Obreht has anything NEW to say--who has anything new to say anyway? She just tells a wonderful, satisfying story (or in this case, many). I definitely wasn't bored by it; I was intrigued. It's not really a story "about" anything in particular--life is rarely that simple and straight-forward.
One reviewer on this site wrote "Or maybe there was no point, and that is the point - 'we're just telling stories'. Oh, Ok!! But, just so you know, it's freaking boring! In my view, the balance of power in this novel is held by the wrong characters - the depth is given to stories that frankly don't deserve it, while complete superficiality (at best) is all that is afforded to the stories that actually matter."
I don't think the stories are boring at all. But then, I'm interested by most anybody I come across. People fascinate me, and their stories fascinate me. Also, I think the reviewer had in mind who the "right" characters and "wrong" characters were. I mean, maybe people did get wrapped up in "why did Natalia's grandfather die far away from home mysteriously?" I didn't, really--I didn't feel any kind of suspense in that question and I was more than happy to go along for all the diversions. The same reviewer said "Ok, I get it, she's talented! But what use is this without a real life actual story to tell?" These are pretty much real life actual stories--domestic violence, family dysfunction, shallow friendships, alienation, drawn out war. That kind of life, or elements of it, belongs to millions and millions of people. It's not happy, it's not fulfilling, it's not right...but it's true to life and well told.
But then apparently, there was a lot of hype about this book? Which I was completely unaware of. I was like, "cute kitty on the front, slightly unnerving picture of the author in the back, sold." I don't like to hear anything about a book I'm going to read--I don't read the book jacket, I don't read reviews, and I've been disappointed by the hype machine so many times I just ignore it now.
I guess, in summary--I found it very human, and I would read anything else the author writes.