Thursday, March 26, 2020

Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters, by Samantha Mabry

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Rosa had just found a place to sit near the peak of the roof when she heard a rustle from the oak tree. The leaves then shook, but it was too small of a shake to have been caused by a squirrel. Rosa took a step back down toward the tree. It was dim in the twilight, but she swore she could see dark red deep in the tree. Her first thought was that it was the wing of a lonely bird.

Rosa took another step and lost her balance. There was no traction between the sole of one of her shoes and the roof tile, so her right foot slid forward six inches. She fell on her left knee and caught herself in an awkward split. Rosa closed her eyes and let out a breath. Another airplane flew overhead. When she opened her eyes she saw the red again, deep in the leaves. Crouching, Rosa leaned forward as far as she could. She didn’t look down.

“I’m here, I’m here,” Rosa said, pressing the palms of her hands into the roof tiles to gain as much traction as possible. She wanted to be ready for anything. Then she said, “Play tricks.”

The four sisters in this book are all about family being a necessary, sturdy foundation for whatever else life throws at you. Despite their struggles, the sisters’ reliance on each other and them all being there felt like a comfort, even when they didn’t appreciate each other.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: 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.

This book gave a feeling of hope (eventually) to what didn’t sound like a very charmed life of the Torres sisters. Ana (the oldest sister) seems larger than life, both to her younger sisters and to the neighborhood boys who make a hobby of observing the sisters. But her death strikes them all with the same power. Before-Ana-died and after-Ana-died are the segments of life for them all.

A year later, the younger girls still have no idea what life is supposed to be without Ana. Unfortunately, each of them is floundering in her own way. Creepy signs that maybe Ana isn’t so far away after all finally start to bring the sisters to the same team again. The girls united are a force to be reckoned with. The ghost of Ana doesn’t seem to be exceptionally good or bad, but she helps the girls remember who they are together.

I loved the prose style of this book. The girls were objectively not happy, but they didn’t need to be fixed. The ghost of Ana wasn’t scary, just making her presence known, and the girls responded in their own individual ways. It was all presented in a matter-of-fact way, and the resulting emotions were up to the reader.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would be curious to read the author’s first book and see what else it said about the characters.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is at home. Everyone is at home. Reading should be faster than ever, but social distancing has many distractions. Becki also enjoys blogging at, washing her hands, and talking about herself in the third person.


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