Tiger Tiger

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The most disturbing, yet fascinating new book of the summer is Tiger Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. I finished the memoir last month but it has stayed with me since then. That's the perfect reason to blog about it. 

Margaux meets Peter, an older man, as a young child at a swimming pool. Her parents constantly fight and she seeks solace in his friendly home. Even though her mother is always with her, the reader finds out she is mentally unstable and doesn't even notice when Peter becomes increasingly attentive to Margaux.

The mind manipulation begins early. Margaux writes about Peter putting her in charge of caring for the rabbits and helping with the chores. She feels needed and wanted and gets anything she asks for. Peter is fun, plays a loving father figure and listens to the stories her seven-year-old mind creates for hours. He provides the attention she doesn't get at home. They begin kissing on the cheek. He eventually convinces her to french-kiss him during one of their daily trips to the basement to play "dress-up." The abuse just gets more twisted from there.

The story line goes on for 15 years with Margaux "falling for" Peter and suffering from a version of Stockholm syndrome. At the age of 14 (I think), Margaux convinces Peter to sleep with her (this, after he has been abusing her for years in the most manipulative ways imaginable). She actually writes of her desire at that age to get pregnant, be Peter's wife and have a happy family of her own. The irony is: Peter is no longer sexually attracted to her because she has begun her menstruation cycle and has breasts and pubic hair.

Even though Peter remains in control of her life, Margaux begins to date in high school and college. She loses the chance to find true love more than once because her abuser threatens to take his own life. One day Peter stops by her home while she is out with a boyfriend. He leaves 100+ suicide letters that have been written over the years and jumps off one of the cliffs where he sexually abused Margaux numerous times.

Uplifting read, eh? Perhaps not but it is eye-opening and informative. Sexual predators clearly lurk in the open and sometimes operate under the eyes of a parent who may be overwhelmed with their personal issues already. The account also shows predators do not tire easily. Peter's death was Margaux's only rescue. She was hunted relentlessly for more than a decade and some of the best years of her life were taken from her.

Don't pick up this book unless you have some time. I couldn't put it down.

Fragoso completed her PhD in English at Binghampton University. She is married with a child.

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