Book Review: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Atmospheric and evocative, Tigers Not Daughters explores the nonlinear nature of grief and sisterhood through the lens of magical realism. Author Samantha Mabry tinges her words in bittersweet energy that will captivate the reader page after page.  

Tigers, Not Daughters follows the Torres sisters (Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa)  who live in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The book starts a year after the death of their eldest sister, Ana. The sisters live with their father, Rafe, who is constantly drunk, negligent, and only seems to think of his own self interest. After each sister experiences an unexplained happening, the girls are convinced that Ana is trying to give them one last message. The book is not written in chronological order, so things don’t get truly set in place until the end of the book.

Algonquin Young Readers

Throughout the novel, we learn that Ana was the glue that was holding the very fraught family together. Communication between the girls breaks down after the death of Ana, and they become lost in their own feelings. In the aftermath of her death, the bond between the sisters stretches and pulls, but ultimately, in the end, snaps back into place. The book is told through the eyes of each sister and through the eyes of their next door neighbors, a group of brothers. The brothers work as the foil for the Torres sisters. It’s interesting to compare the two sets of siblings to one another, and it helps emphasize how dysfunctional life in the Torres family really is.

Mabry does a great job in connecting grief and trauma with the otherworldly. The supernatural aspects in this book appear in the moments of grief that each character experiences. We learn about the guilt the sisters have about Ana’s death and how much they blame themselves for not doing more in preventing it. It’s a little dark, it dives into the intricacies of depression and how it can manifest itself in different ways. 

At its core, this book is about a group of sisters who dream of leaving their small town home, but who are anchored in place because of the death of their sister. Although there are a lot of growing pains, they learn to heal and lean on each other instead of lashing out.

How would I comp this book? This book is as if you took The Virgin Suicides, mixed it a with Little Women and weaved it all together with King Lear. Read it, if you are a fan of any of these titles.


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