Rating: Highly Recommend
I love a good slow burn character-driven story. And I love something that’s quiet but impactful and elegant but gritty. That’s how I would describe Samantha Mabry’s newest book Tigers, Not Daughters. A contemporary, Latinx King Lear-esque story about all the ways girls are mistreated and misunderstood, a spellbinding tale of the love and turmoil of sisterhood, this is a book that captivated me and has my whole heart.
The book begins with the tragic death of Ana Torres, leaving behind her younger sisters Jessica, Iridian and Rosa to grieve and pick up the pieces of their broken family. Jessica has taken over the responsibility for caring for the family and their broken, abusive father. She is caught in a loveless relationship. Iridian is slowly fading among the pages of her sister’s favorite romance novels and the sheets of her bed. And Rosa thinks that she can speak to animals and is on a mission to find a locally escaped hyena. All of them are grieving and when their dead sister begins to haunt them, they must all reckon with what she might, or might not, be telling them.
I read Tigers, Not Daughters at the beginning of what would become my state’s shelter-in-place order. During those first few uneasy days at home filled with the uncertainty and anxiety of the massive and sudden changes we were experiencing, this story helped me to escape and find some solace. Filled with gorgeous prose and intriguing, complex female protagonists, Mabry’s novel provided an enchanted and disturbing world filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary.
In a book with multiple perspectives, it’s easy to fall in love with one voice and like others less. That wasn’t my experience with this book. I loved the chapters narrated by the meddling boys across the street, which added on a shimmery layer of the outside onto the intense psychological worlds of the sister. They also toyed with the complex gender politics of the novel. This is a world in which the Torres sisters are victims of the well-intentioned kindness, neutrality and malice of those outside their tight-knit bonds.
Each of the sisters felt distinct and I enjoyed each of their voices and stories. I loved Jessica’s resignedness and her quiet fury. I loved Iridian’s quirkiness and her stubbornness. And I loved Rosa’s eccentricity. But most of all, I loved the way the sisters found each other again over the course of this book.
Tigers, Not Daughters is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s intense, deep and suspenseful. It’s also one of the best books I’ve read this year about grief and the way it deeply transforms you. That shower hair scene was disturbing, but I get what it’s like to miss someone so deeply you want them to be a part of you. To miss someone so much you begin competing with the other people who miss them to for even the smallest tangible piece of memory to hold onto. It was so well done, and my heart swelled with every page.
I’m also thrilled that Tigers, Not Daughters is the first in a series. I can’t wait to spend more time with the Torres sisters in the next chapter of their story.
Please note that an e-arc was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.