WELCOME to my stop for the Tigers, not daughters blog tour!
First of all, I wanted to thank Algonquin & Algonquin Young Readers for the chance to be part of this tour and to read this amazing book.
animal death, suicide, death, abuse (physical and psychological), depression
The Torres sisters, Ana, Jessica, Iridian and Rosa, dream to escape from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of families that know everything about them and their family situation, away from their needy and oppressive father. The book starts during an attempted (and failed) escape. A year later, the older sister Ana is dead and the family is weighed down by grief, guilt, regrets and secrets.
Each sister is trying to deal in her own way with Ana’s loss and their broken dreams, when unusual things start to happen in the house. Walls with messages in Ana’s handwriting, mysterious hands, laughters and sounds. Is Ana? What is she trying to say? Why is she haunting them?
Tigers, not daughters is a phrase from Shakespeare’s King Lear and, according to the author, “in the play, it’s used as an insult, hurled by Albany at Lear’s selfish and disobedient daughters.” So she decided to use this phrase in a positive way, like a praise to the strenght of the Torres sisters. The reader is able to get to know each sister and how each deals with her grief, wishes, dreams and regrets.
JESSICA works at the local pharmacy and, like Ana, dreams to get away, once her sisters and needy father are taken care of. Jessica, who wants to be like Ana, almost losing her own identity in the process, wanting her sister’s room, clothes, makeup, even her abusive boyfriend. She deals with her loss by trying to becoming Ana and she’s full of rage and grief.
IRIDIAN is the one who loses herself in her own world, made of writing romance, reading, who doesn’t go anywhere without her favourite book, notebook and pen and who is so struck down by her grief she can’t get out of the house, battling everyday with her fear and depression.
ROSA is the youngest, wisest and strangest sister, animal-lover, wandering during the night person, whose heart is purer that others’ (according to many). Rosa, who is special, different, fierce and loyal and who is convinced that the escaped hyena has something to do with her sister Ana, maybe it’s her reincarnation.
The protagonists are Latinx and, through the author’s writing, the reader can almost taste the air, see the oppressive neighborhood, they being stuck in it and feel the claustrophobic feeling they experience. They are trapped in their broken home, in an oppressive and repetitive enviroment, with their irresponsible, full of debts, hurtful and unable to take care of them father.
Motherless, fatherless, the Torres sisters lean on one other, protecting, supporting and loving each other with a fierceness that reminds the reader of, precisely, tigers.
The story is told by multiple POVs, from Jessica’s, Iridian’s, Rosa’s in third person and from a collective voice from the boys in the house across the Torres’. It’s through the boys’ perspective the reader and the Torres’ sisters can get more knowledge of Ana and what happened to her.
Told in a nonlinear way, with flashbacks and memories, by the multiple POVs, the story unfurls (expect for the flashbacks and the first chapter) from June 9th to June 17th, ending with a jump in July 7th.
Starting with the failed escape, the story begins one exact year after Ana’s death and the reader is able to see how the Torres’ routine is shocked and turned upside down by a series of paranormal events in the house and, for Rosa, by the escaped hyena.
THE WRITING STYLE
The way the characters are portrayed is acutely real, beautiful and they are really relatable. Mabry wrote characters brimming with life, love and loss able to pierce the pages. Her writing style is so evocative, lush, strong and intense it’s almost like the reader is there with Rosa, looking for her escaped hyena and holding Walter’s hand, or with Iridian, being scared and under the couch’s covers watching soap opera or with Jessica, talking with Peter and being angry and broken all the time.
In Tigers, not daughters, Jessica, Iridian and Rosa stick out as women, as sisters and as bonded by love, grief and loss. Through flashbacks and her sisters’ memories, Ana lives too, as a strong and stubborn girl, who gazed out of the window, dreaming of escape and better places, who took care of her family, almost embodying a mathernal figure. Role that Jessica tries to incarnate after her death.
Ana lives through her sisters, she’s the older one who was determined to protect and she helps them, pushing them together, encouraging them in discovering again their sisterly bond, even when she’s dead.
I found the element of magic realism, the supernatural moments really beautiful and skillfully written. Even though the sisters stand out in Tiger, not daughter, each character, the side ones too, are skillfully written.
Reading about the boys in the house across the street the reader can see their regrets and impotence, how they could have helped and talked and they didn’t.
How Rafe is broken by grief (his wife, dead right after Rosa’s birth and then Ana’s death, who wanted to get away from him and the neighborhood) and how he’s needy and hurtful and broken, ready to try to break and oppress his daughters and almost managing it with Iridian (saved by the love of her sisters).
How John is the oppressive, controlling and abusing boyfriend and how, even in this case, Jessica is saved by her sisters.
Jessica, Iridian and Rosa fight and rebel against the male figures in their lives, above all Rafe and John and even against those who watched without doing anything, like Hector and his friends. They fight against people’s indifference. They find strenght in one other, in their bond made of blood, love trust and loyalty.
One of the thing I loved the most in this characters driven plot is that each character is written as realistic as possible, with their bad moments and bad behaviour, hurtful phrases, regrets, bad thoughts and even who could be the best and wisest character, Rosa, can be driven by rage and think hurtful things.
Each character, above all the sisters, is human, real, complicated, messed up. They are free to act badly, say hurtful and mean things, hit people, rage, laugh hysterically and be absolutely and wonderfully humans.
I think that’s one of the beauty in this book, being able to recognize oneself in the characters, seeing that how they deal with their regrets, desires, wishes and losses is acutely real. It’s interesting and very realistic reading how, even though they all experience the same death, each character deals with grief in a very different way. It’s realistic because people don’t react in the same way and grief is dealt and processed differently.
Reading Tigers, not daughter it’s impossible not to think about The virgin suicides and Little women. Kind and stubborn Rosa recalls Beth, book-worm Iridian Jo, Jessica as the breadwinner and who takes care of her family as Meg. As the March sisters, the Torres have one other’s back everytime, ready to protect and defend each other, to support and love.
Tigers, not daughter is an intense story of love, loss, grief, with magic realism, ghosts and sisterly bond. Its characters are alive and strong and deal with important themes, like loss, death, depression, abusive relationships. I loved the message, that through love and hope it’s possible to reach out and be able to heal. It’s a story about grief and loss and dealing with them, dreams, regrets, wishes, desires, sisterhood, loyalty and love.
Tigers, not daughters is the kind of book that stays with you for a long time, able to grab the reader’s attention and feelings and it’s impossible not love these broken and strong characters, so real and humans.