Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann (pub date 7/17/12)
“Houses, husbands, and midnight gin parties. . . Nothing’s going to change. Not in any way that really matters. It will be like always.”
I love novels about dysfunctional families, probably because it’s nice to think that there are families more messed up than my own. I kid, I kid. But for me there’s something so satisfying about a book in which family secrets are slowly revealed, and the characters show their true selves.
Tigers in Red Weather is just such a book. Set in post-World War II America, Tigers tells the story of cousins Nick and Helena and twenty years of their family drama. At the beginning of the novel, Nick and Helena are having one last drink together before they separate for the first time in their lives. The cousins are moving away to join their respective husbands: Helena is moving to Hollywood to marry the enterprising Avery, while Nick is moving to Florida to live with her Navy veteran husband Hughes.
Little do they know that that night might be the last time they were truly happy. After years of disenchantment with marriage and motherhood, Nick and Helena find themselves changed, and find their once close relationship strained beyond recognition. The rest of the novel takes place in the family’s cherished summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, known as Tiger House. Things change for Nick and Helena when their twelve-year-old children, Daisy and Ed, discover the body of a murder victim on the island. That one event shakes the family to its core, uncovering years of resentment, secrets, and infidelities.
The book tells the story from the separate viewpoints of the five main characters and jumps around in the timeline, going back and forth between the 1940s, 1959, and 1967. The changing perspectives and non-linear storytelling help build the drama and give the reader a more complete understanding of the book’s events.
While I enjoyed Tigers in Red Weather very much, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. The plot description would have you believe that kids finding the dead body was the main plot point, but it was really just a catalyst that leads to this family’s undoing. But with its great writing and well thought out characters, I was far from disappointed. This is another example in which the characters make the story, and that story is definitely intense and at times disturbing.
With an air of mystery and a touch of faded glamour, Tigers is a great dramatic story. A perfect summer read for those looking for an alternative to the usual “beach reads.”