Summary and book reviews of Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso

Tiger, Tiger

A Memoir

by Margaux Fragoso

Tiger, Tiger
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2012, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

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About this Book

Book Summary

This extraordinary memoir is an unprecedented glimpse into the psyche of a young girl in free fall and conveys to readers - including parents and survivors of abuse - just how completely a pedophile enchants his victim and binds her to him.

One summer day, Margaux Fragoso meets Peter Curran at the neighborhood swimming pool, and they begin to play. She is seven; he is fifty-one. When Peter invites her and her mother to his house, the little girl finds a child's paradise of exotic pets and an elaborate backyard garden. Her mother, beset by mental illness and overwhelmed by caring for Margaux, is grateful for the attention Peter lavishes on her, and he creates an imaginative universe for her, much as Lewis Carroll did for his real-life Alice.

In time, he insidiously takes on the role of Margaux's playmate, father, and lover. Charming and manipulative, Peter burrows into every aspect of Margaux's life and transforms her from a child fizzing with imagination and affection into a brainwashed young woman on the verge of suicide. But when she is twenty-two, it is Peter - ill, and wracked with guilt - who kills himself, at the age of sixty-six.

Told with lyricism, depth, and mesmerizing clarity, Tiger, Tiger vividly illustrates the healing power of memory and disclosure. This extraordinary memoir is an unprecedented glimpse into the psyche of a young girl in free fall and conveys to readers - including parents and survivors of abuse - just how completely a pedophile enchants his victim and binds her to him.

Prologue

I started writing this book the summer after the death of Peter Curran, whom I met when I was seven and had a relationship with for fifteen years, right up until he committed suicide at the age of sixty-six.

Hoping to make sense of what happened, I began drafting my life story. And even during times I haven't worked on it, when it sat on a shelf in my closet, I felt its presence in the despair that comes precisely at two in the afternoon, which was the time Peter would pick me up and take me for rides; in the despair again at five p.m., when I would read to him, head on his chest; at seven p.m., when he would hold me; in the despair again at nine p.m., when we would go for our night ride, starting at Boulevard East in Weehawken, to River Road, down to the Royal Cliffs Diner, where I would buy a cup of coffee with precisely seven sugars and a lot of cream, and a bread pudding with whipped cream and raisins, or rice pudding if he wanted a change. When I came ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Margaux Fragoso loved storytelling and role playing as a child, and Peter exploited these creative traits. How did her gift for narrative ultimately become part of her healing? How can the vividly written scenes of her memoir help others face the truth with clarity and courage?

  2. As the ones who stayed home while others provided for them, what common ground did Margaux's mother and Peter share? What does Margaux's story tell us about the way children are sometimes forced to take on a care giving role?

  3. Margaux describes the intense exhilaration of being with Peter, a high that nothing else could match. When has someone tried to blur your concepts of joy and harm, making you vulnerable to this sense of exhilaration?

  4. Peter's many ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It matters that this is non-fiction. It matters that Fragoso was brave enough to re-live this, and share it with us. I've read tons of fiction that made me happy, angry, frustrated and sad. With this book, I could only ache for the truth of this little girl's life. Anger was useless, and pity seemed an insult to the woman she's become. I applaud her writing, and her commitment to protecting future children from the horror she suffered by illustrating the need for treatment of the perpetrators as well as the victims. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending - we are left with the image of Margaux, grown up and healing. Hope makes the ugly truth a little easier to take.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (504 words).

Media Reviews

New York Times - Kathryn Harrison

So who - other than voyeurs looking for a sustained close-up of a pedophile in action - will want to read this book? To bear witness to a numbingly long series of violations of a child by a man who has honed his wickedness for decades is not more pleasant than it sounds. As a society we energetically oppose sexual abuse; as individuals most of us shy away from investigating a relationship characterized by creepy kisses and inappropriate fondling. Worse, we defend cowardice by calling it discretion - minding our own business. Maybe a book like Tiger, Tiger can help us be a little braver. Certainly, it took courage to write.

New York Observer - Maureen Tkacik

Only in the afterword do we learn the clinical diagnosis for what we have just endured alongside Ms. Fragoso: complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which she assures us is perfectly described by the Sartre novel Nausea. For Ms. Fragoso, there is no distinction between extreme existential alienation and PTSD, nor between literature and therapy. The cosmic profundity of what she has experienced - the book is invariably called "harrowing" in reviews and blurbs, and this characterization certainly applies to the underlying reality, if not exactly her representation of it - is inextricable from her gift as a narrator and contemplator of her own experience.

Elle - Ben Dickinson

The manner in which Peter robs her of her childhood but still somehow points her toward a productive life turns into an astonishing and heartbreaking drama of her becoming - and his undoing, which rings down the curtain on this talented ­writer's debut with a resounding finality that is, paradoxically, hard to shake off as you lay the book to rest.

NRP - Dan Kois

While Fragoso's publisher, FSG, is selling the book as a cautionary tale for parents and an act of bearing witness for victims of abuse, it's also positioning Tiger, Tiger, albeit uneasily, as a literary breakthrough. But though Fragoso can write with terrible beauty, often her memoir is hampered by awkward sentences, sloppy storytelling and the kind of unbelievably detailed description and dialogue that makes you distrust a memoir's voice.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Fragoso eloquently depicts psychological and sexual abuse in disturbing detail.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A gripping, tragic and unforgettable chronicle of lost innocence and abuse.

Author Blurb Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
Tiger, Tiger will start a thousand conversations. Margaux Fragoso achieves the unthinkable with empathic clarity: she humanizes a pedophile. In doing so, she makes his crime unimaginably more frightening. Her portrayal of their relationship is shocking, revelatory, and fearless. As the story of a victim, it is gripping; as a work of literature, it's a triumph.

Author Blurb Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing
Once in a generation, an essential book - a necessary book - comes along and challenges our bedrock assumptions about life. Margaux Fragoso's Tiger, Tiger is that book. Family life, the corruption of innocence, sexual abuse, pedophilia - all are unflinchingly yet exquisitely rendered as Fragoso experienced them. You will never view childhood the same way after reading Fragoso's monumentally important book.

Reader Reviews

Louise J

Sad & Devastating!
Margaux Fragoso had a sexual relationship for 15 years with a pedophile. She was only 7-years-old when she first met Peter Curran. Margaux says she was: “...Peter’s religion”. He had 22 photo albums full of pictures of Margaux. spoilers removed...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Treating Pedophiles

Margaux Fragoso says in the afterword of Tiger, Tiger that one of the reasons she wrote the book was to bring attention to the need for treatment of pedophiles. The current system focuses on the treatment of the child victims, and punishment for the perpetrators. As a victim herself, she believes the best thing would be to find a way to treat the pedophile so there would be no, or at least fewer, victims.

A web search of the U.S National Library of Medicine demonstrates the lack of attention to this area of study.  A search for 'treatment pedophilia' only garners 350 hits, while 'treatment schizophrenia' has over 50,000.

In an article in Time magazine, experts explain that someone who seeks treatment is likely to ...

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