Title: Tigers, Not Daughters
Author: Samantha Mabry
Release Date: March 24th 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Magic Realism
Goodreads Rating: 3.92 (of 228 ratings)
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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.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
This is one of those books that slides you into an immersive world full of light and darkness, hope and depression, and such intensity that you’re really not sure where you are. This book is about grief, sisterhood, and finding the pieces of yourself after such devastation.
I think my favorite part of the book is just how messy and realistic it is. Our heroines and characters aren’t perfect Mary and Gary Sues. Our heroines are flawed – almost never doing the nicely tied up answer and absolutes – and they make real mistakes. Jessica is angry, Iridian is withdrawn, and Rosa puts herself in danger for animals. Our side characters have many layers to them as well – there is goodness to them as well as bad. The book just shows you the grit and how imperfect our world is, and I loved that messiness.
Our heroines are deeply fascinating. Mabry dives deep into their psyche, and gives us some main characters that aren’t necessarily easy to root for at times, but definitely are interesting. Our Torres sisters are all grieving their eldest sister, Ana, in their own way while dealing with an emotional and absentee father. They’re trying to take care of their own lives while dealing with aftermaths from his mess and their sister. They’re definitely compelling heroines, and while I never really connected deeply with any of them, I was intrigued in each of their stories.
What I also loved with this story is the themes of feminism and sisterhood. The Torres sisters are surrounded by men that don’t always have their back and use them. I loved their story of reclaiming their power and reuniting as sisters. I loved the material at the end, and it was such an incredible story of empowerment in those final few chapters with the build up that had been coming.
The writing was also intriguing. At times, I thought it was fantastic. Other times, well, it felt like it was trying to become that gritty magical realism book that it really wanted to be. This story was compared to The Virgin Suicides, and honestly, it had the same exact feel to it – and the whole “watching” male gaze chapters felt like exact parts from the movie (I think it was a book, but I only watched the movie). There were also a few lines that I had issues with – especially when there were direct lines that made me feel uncomfortable since it felt like we were objectiving our own heroines – that made me withdraw from the story. However, Mabry definitely creates a haunting atmosphere and mood.
By now, I feel like y’all know I love a good ghost story. I did find the paranormal aspects of these stories to be highly intriguing. However, I felt like it was introduced a touch too late? It was almost halfway through the story when the first mention of a ghost happened. It sort of felt out of the blue, and if I hadn’t read it in the summary, I wouldn’t have known. I think it would have been slightly better had we gotten a sooner heads up it was coming.
Overall, it had some ups, and it had some downs; however, it’s a inspiring story about dealing with tragedy and how to begin anew. I felt like there were a few things missing for me to love it fully, but it does have some fantastic elements.
About the Author
Samantha Mabry credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and a cat named Mouse. She is the author of A Fierce and Subtle Poison and All the Wind in the World. Visit her online at samanthamabry.com or on Twitter: @samanthamabry..
representation: Latinx main characters
content warnings: death of loved one (description of it as well), domestic abuse (physical and emotional), consensual sexual content, grief, death of animal, peeping toms
read this if you: looking for a nontraditional ghost story about the demons in our past and the forming of a sisterhood
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!