Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.
Tigers, Not Daughters is the story of the Torres sisters, currently living in San Antonio, Texas. Their mother died after the youngest daughter’s birth, and now they live with their father. This tragedy is something their father has never been able to move on from. He complicates his daughters’ lives even more, and life is challenging for each one of them. One night, the oldest sister (Ana) sneaks out and accidentally falls from her bedroom window. The three remaining Torres sisters are left to deal with loss once again. The question is: can they pull together and be there for one another, or will they just fall apart?
Each sister is dealing with the loss of Ana in their own way, and their father (Rafe) has basically lost it. He’s extremely abusive and never supports the girls; in fact, he’s practically nonexistent. Having a troubled father in my own life, I found the more intense parts of the book with Rafe easy to connect with and understand. Jessica—now the oldest sister—has basically tried to become Ana by wearing her clothes and dating one of her ex-boyfriends. Many times throughout the story I questioned Jessica’s choices. Iridian is only interested in reading, writing, and remaining at home as much as possible. She’s obsessed with her sister Ana’s books and wants to recreate them. She seems to have more anger toward her father than the other girls do, but why? Lastly, Rosa is the youngest sister who has an interest in the natural world around her, and she’s the glue holding this family together. She strives to find her place in the world. When it appears that Ana’s ghost is visiting them, they question why Ana hasn’t moved on. Is she just trying to give them a message, or is the family willing her to stay?
This is a dark, powerful, and emotional coming-of-age story about living through loss and finding a way to reconnect with life. The author did a wonderful job conveying the emotions of each of the sisters perfectly and presenting the household dynamics in such a way that you feel like you’re experiencing their pain right along with them. I could feel their overwhelming grief, but the heart of this book to me was family. The comical parts in the book stemming from people in the community and neighbors around them, paired with a dash of mystery and magical realism, adds much character to the story. It’s written beautifully.
With that said, it took me some time to get into this book with the constant flipping back and forth between perspectives. I did like the shortness of each perspective because it was just the right amount to drive me forward. There were some questions involving an important character in the end, and some loose ends were left out in the open and never touched upon again; however, I do see that this book is listed as #1 in a series. Perhaps these questions will be answered in a future installment.
Overall, this was a thought-provoking and memorable read that will likely stick with me for some time.
- Publisher : Algonquin Young Readers (March 24, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1616208961
- ISBN-13 : 978-1616208967
- Reading age : 14 years and up
- Grade level : 9 – 12
Thanks for reading my review! Have you read this book? Feel free to comment below. Happy reading!