Friday, April 22, 2011
I finished this book just minutes ago and realize I have a huge headache. I believe it's from furrowing my brow so intensely in horror and disgust...
Tiger, Tiger is an incredible story but one not easy to read because of its subject content. At turns both sickening and fascinating, I found myself riveted even as I was repelled.
Margaux is a troubled seven-year-old girl when she meets fifty-two-year-old Peter. Saddled at home with a mother who suffers from mental illness and a controlling, egocentric father, visits to Peter's house are a vacation from rules-a carefree time of make believe.
Peter is the father Margaux wishes she had. The one who doesn't yell when she twirls her hair and doesn't criticize her for what she eats or what she says. Peter is patient with her and kind. He listens to her stories, admires her drawings, and plays with the paper ladybug set she makes just for him. And he takes pictures of her-lots of pictures. He singles her out and wants to spend individual time just with her.
The basement becomes their special place. While Margaux's mother watches movies or goes to the store, Peter teaches her how to Eskimo kiss, then fish kiss, then kiss long like adults do, then finally, the Bazooka Joe kiss- which is the kiss where they pass gum from her mouth to his. She doesn't like this kiss because their tongues touch and that's ishy.
By the time Margaux is eight, Peter tells her his birthday is coming soon. He knows she doesn't have money so he'll ask instead for a very special gift that won't cost her anything. The day of Peter's birthday, Margaux gets a tummy ache. She doesn't feel well at all. Her mother tells her if she's sick she can't go to Peter's house to celebrate his birthday. Margaux cries. She really wants to go but she's afraid she'll disappoint Peter because she hasn't bought a present for him...
Reading this story I was shocked by how little I understood about pedophiles and their behavior. I knew enough to know they don't all look like monsters and you can't pick them out of a crowd, but what I didn't realize was how slowly and insidiously they could worm their way into your life.
Margaux's mother, partly because of her mental illness, either didn't see or ignored the signs. Her father's suspicions he disregarded because drink, his job, or his girlfriend always seemed to come before his daughter.
Peter and Margaux's relationship went on for fifteen years. Their unusual bond was a hard one to break although both at times seemed like they wanted to. Margaux was all Peter had. And Peter? Well, he had been such a big part of her life for so many years she didn't know how to exist without him.
I have never read a book where the character's relationships with each other were so complex. Margaux had such a love-hate relationship with everybody involved it's hard to imagine how she could feel anything at all-and sometimes she didn't.
I know this book stirred up a whole gamut of emotions within me: terror, revulsion, violation, incredulity, distrust, dismay, fury...and the feeling that I had consumed an important book for Margaux to write and a significant book for me to read. 5/5 stars