Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TIGER, TIGER by Margaux Fragoso

This is a very difficult book to review because of the subject matter.  TIGER, TIGER is Margaux Fragoso's unflinching memoir about her relationship with a pedophile from age 7 until his suicide when she was 22.  I had heard good things about this book but, more than anything, I wanted to get some understanding as a parent about how things like this happen.

Fragoso's mother was a very damaged person---most likely schizophrenic.  Her alcoholic father stayed away from home as much as possible due to his unhappy marriage and was hyper-critical and quick to anger. In their search for a peaceful retreat, Margaux and her mother befriended Peter Curran at a public pool. Curran's home gave Margaux's mother a safe place to act out on her neuroses and to escape from the criticism and anger of her husband. Margaux loved the fantasy world that Curran created in his home full of exotic pets and lack of rules. While her mother was lost in the haze of her mental illness, Margaux would venture into the basement of Curran's house where the sexual abuse began.  The fact that Curran's home was Margaux's refuge from her parents complicated her feelings about what was happening to her.  She thrived in Curran's attention and praise---things that were lacking in her home life.  Fragoso slowly unspools her story and the complexity of her relationship with Curran and how it affected her in other aspects of her life. And how she finally broke the cycle of abuse.

This is such a painful book to read. It is hard to believe that any parent could be so unaware of what was happening to his/her child.  We warn our children about the danger of strangers but the fact remains that this kind of abuse most often happens at the hands of people who are well known to a child and his/her parents.  Margaux's mother went with her to Curran's house and was sitting upstairs while all of this was happening. Margaux's father even suspected something was amiss but did no more than tell his daughter that if she WAS "involved" with Curran, he would disown her. This child had no adult champions other than her abuser.  The very person who robbed her of her childhood.

It is very hard to separate out my feelings about the subject matter of this book versus the written word. I think Fragoso does a very good job demonstrating how this relationship came to be and its impact on her life. Curran isn't a clear-cut villain either.  He clearly struggles with his impulses and Fragosos recognizes that fact. I applaud her honesty and forthrightness about this subject.  It can't be easy to open up about something like this. She clearly does so to make us all aware about how this kind of thing can happen. She also offers sources of support for potential abusers at the end of the book in the hope that they will get help before hurting someone.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended with reservations. The subject matter is unflinching. This is a very difficult book to read. However, it is well done and brings to light some important truths about pedophilia and child abuse.

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