Tiger and her mother live alone and the loving intensity of the relationship-particularly her mother’s overprotectiveness-sometimes chafes. When her mother dies suddenly and unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm, however, Tiger’s loss and guilt are all-consuming. This novel is a paen to grief, exploring the emotional and practical repercussions of tragedy in an affecting and believable way.
Since Tiger is legally a minor, she is put into the care of the state and the uneven quality of that care is made abundantly clear. Her best friend’s family are legally prevented from caring for her and so she is placed among strangers-other young people with cruel or shattered lives. The first section of the book deals with a short parade of foster homes, with all the accompanying uncertainties and their often institutionalised environments. Tiger’s grief resonates throughout and although the writing is highly charged and deeply felt it is also occasionally frustratingly cyclical.
This extended examination of loss causes a feeling of inbalance in the book as the second part moves on-initially, at least- with unnerving swiftness. Tiger’s father and half-sister are suddenly discovered and she is placed in the care of the latter-an alcoholic with a controlling and abusive boyfriend. Tiger is able to return to school but, after an assault on another student, must attend their Grief Counselling group, where she is surprised to see several of the most notorious bullies. Events and revelations follow thick and fast and can overwhelm the narrative-just as Tiger is overwhelmed, perhaps.
There is no question that this is a courageous and powerfully written book which will move readers to tears. Glasgow deals with a range of bleak topics, so this is not for the faint-hearted, but it may well provide insights for those who have travelled down the same paths.