Gabrielle's Reviews > Tiger, Tiger

Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze
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Aug 02, 08


This is what I had originally written for the New York Post (to see, go to http://www.nypost.com/seven/07202008/postopinion/postopbooks/tiger__tiger_120687.htm) sans edits:

Galaxy Craze’s exquisite second novel, "Tiger, Tiger,” makes you want to keep glancing at the author pic on the jacket: a strawberry-blonde beauty with a slightly pained expression, as if she were seeing the world for what it really is — not always pleasant — but seeing it with poetry.

You look at it when asking yourself with heartfelt compassion, Did something like this happen to Galaxy? Was her mother as restless as narrator May's mom, Lucy? (“Our mother wanted so much from the world, of love and happiness and other invisible things with wings.”)

The fact is that in Craze’s deft hands it all rings true — whether it happened to the author or not.

British mum Lucy and dad Simon married young. “When they had first met, my mother had been attracted to Dad because he was interested in spirituality. They traveled to India together to meet the Maharaji.” Now, mid-80s, the marriage is a series of breakups and reconciliations. “‘There has to be more for us . . . than working in the shop all day. Don’t you think? . . . Simon?’” Dad, however, “a working class boy” who “pulled himself up in the world,” is perfectly content, with his family, a house “in a good location,” smoking the occasional joint and running his antiques store, where Keith Richards and Annie Lenox shop.

Then Simon is off to Delhi but just for business, and when Lucy insists on the family tagging along, he rebuffs her. While he is away, Lucy impulsively decides to take the kids on their own little “summer holiday,” dragging May, 14, and brother Eden, 10, off to an ashram outside L.A. to visit her old friend Renee.

It must be an innocuous place, you think, if it is run by a woman: “‘It’s like a large family and Parvati is the mother,’ Renee said. . . .” Still, there’s something ominous as the gates close and lock behind them and a blissed-out Renee adds, “that to leave or enter . . . you must have permission from Parvati.”

Soon May meets the undine, sylphlike Sati emerging from the ashram pond, where lovely sun-browned children while away the days: “The water fell from her like rain, sliding down her tan body, landing on the grass.” In Sati, May finds the best friend she’s been longing for in London — and more: “Our eyes met and I felt a flicker, like the flame on a matchstick. . . .” Days with adolescent awakening ensue. Soon the visit has stretched much longer than a summer vacay. But something’s not right in Parvati’s paradise. Sati appears increasingly more like a California version of a Nazi Youth. May and Eden can’t call their dad who’d been left unwittingly. And who is this guru who seems so willing to accept the many gifts, sometimes too precious, her disciples offer? “‘A guru is a guru,’” one child explains.

What at first glace appeared a peaceful respite begins to look more and more like a cult.

Craze’s gorgeous prose is all in the incisive detail. She wields a scalpel, cutting from the flesh of life, coolly, sometimes even ruthlessly, but always with precision. And what emerges from “Tiger, Tiger” is a skillfully rendered, bittersweet family portrait: a loving but self-involved father; a mother striving to be the warm, caring mom she herself never had while seeking to satisfy a yearning that perhaps might never be fulfilled; and two children fending for themselves in a strange and sometimes brutal world, where loss of innocence can occur over and over again.

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