BAYA Book Review

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

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Mabry, Samantha. Tigers, Not Daughters. Algonquin, 2020. 288p. ISBN: 9781643750545. $17.95.

Tigers, Not Daughters focuses on the lives of Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, the three younger sisters of Ana, who died tragically almost a year ago to the day. None of the three sisters, nor their father, have handled the loss of Ana well. Even before Ana fell from the tree outside her bedroom window, the four Torres sisters had wanted to leave their small town just outside of San Antonio. All three surviving sisters have their own grief and regret with regards to Ana, each unfolding with the story. Each needs something of Ana that another sister, or even an ex-boyfriend already has. As they attempt to survive their grief, each sister is visited by Ana as she tries to make her message clear.

As far as ghost stories go, this one is a slow motion train wreck that shows that humans can be far scarier than ghosts. Each moment of the week leading up to the year anniversary of Ana’s death is riddled with horrific incidents that are grotesque compared to the mild haunting that Ana is playing upon the house. Each sister struggles with their own demons that have only materialized and grown since Ana left them.

Mabry does an excellent job at hooking the reader, though you know the next sister’s experience will be just as raw and devastating as the last with only a few hopeful reprieves. Although their story is very sad, tragic even, citing the author’s own reference to King Lear, the love and bond of the Torres sisters pulls them through. Although this is a ghost story, I wouldn’t recommend it just on that plot piece alone. The story is heartbreaking but lovely at the same time. Mabry’s excellence with description and weaving the perspectives of the three sisters, plus an unnamed (but easily deduced) fourth character, makes the story riveting. This is a hard story to handle, considering the realities of an abusive father, abusive boyfriend, and a mostly unsupportive community. There is quite a bit of language and references to sexual encounters but these encounters are not graphic, though the violence set on the Torres sisters is detailed.

-Jessica Lundin, San Jose Public Library

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