Friday, March 20, 2020

Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

by Samantha Mabry
Algonquin Books
YA Magical Realism

MARCH 24th!!!

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.



Beautiful prose takes on the pain of loss, weaves in a dash of ghostly wonder, and rakes through the ache of family trauma.

This is the story of four sisters, whose lives haven't always been easy. They are torn apart as one of the sisters, Ana, dies by falling from a window. The three remaining sisters try to deal with the loss in their own, strange ways. But as they do, odd and odder things start happening around them. They wonder if their sister is really resting in eternal peace or if she's trying to reach out to them with a message instead.

This book  addresses complex emotions, dark situations, and healing. The sisters' love for Ana is clear in their pain, and each one handles it so differently. In some cases, even creepy and disturbing. It's hard not to ache for each of them as they battle their own inner monsters. Their father, after also suffering the loss of his wife, isn't handling things well, which makes the three sister's lives exceptionally unpleasant. They suffer from isolation as well as scrutiny from those around them. Even the neighbors keep careful watch on everything that goes on. Their struggles are on the inside and out.

The story is told not only from the sisters' points of view but also those of the neighbor boys. It's lyrical, beautiful and yet biting as it explores the questions of loss and shows a path to living on. The paranormal aspect adds a fitting, dark twist, which slides in sometimes more seamlessly than others, and a few questions remain unanswered even at the end. There's also a lovely side-plot which includes a hyena. This is one of those reads which leaves an impression, which is hard to forget.

And here she is...

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 or on Twitter: @samanthamabry

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