{Book Expert} A beach read that’s anything but sunny.

A book about a pedophile-child relationship its not what you’d normally refer to as a “beach read,” but you might want to reconsider. According to FOF Linda Wolfe, Margaux Fragoso’s Tiger, Tiger, is, like the best beach reads, impossible to put down. Unlike many beach reads, however, it’s also impossible to forget. Here’s why….

(Plus, enter to win a copy of Tiger, Tiger when you answer this question in the comments below: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?)

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One of the most compelling books I’ve read recently is Margaux Fragoso’s Tiger, Tigernot to be confused with the controversial Tiger Mother or the precocious Tiger’s Wife (not to mention the Broadway show Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo – what is it with tiger titles lately?)  Fragoso’s book is a memoir, the astonishing story of how, at the age of seven, she was seduced by a man more than forty years her senior, a once-jailed pedophile with whom she maintained a secret, intimate relationship until she was twenty-two, and he, at the age of sixty-six, committed suicide.

Perhaps in the previous sentence I should have said “why” she was seduced and “why” she remained in the relationship instead of “how,” for this book, explicit, insightful, and elegantly written, has much to tell us about what makes certain children easy prey for pedophiles.

In Fragoso’s case, her earliest childhood years were wrenching.  Raised by an explosive, alcoholic father and a mentally unstable mother, Fragoso grew up fearing her father, having to mother her mother, and longing for what all children want: attention, encouragement, praise.  She meets Peter Curran, the man who will give her these things, while bathing at a neighborhood pool with her mother. Watching him splash and play with two little boys she assumes are his sons, she paddles up to him and asks, “Can I play with you?”

Curran obliges, includes her in his games with the boys – who turn out to be the sons of a woman in whose house he rents a room  – and several days later invites her and her mother to visit the family and the house.

It’s a place that’s vibrant with life: in addition to the boys and their mother, the house is home to a large furry dog, a tankful of iguanas, a cage full of rabbits, and even a small baby alligator. Both Margaux and her mother are enchanted, and become regular after-school visitors.  Curran calls Margaux “princess” and “angel,” tells her how talented she is when she writes little stories or  puts on little playlets, and patiently plays whatever games she proposes.  He also introduces games of his own choosing: “an enhanced version of Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Mad Scientist” and “Tickle Torture Time.”  Then one day he takes Margaux down to the basement to check on the health of Fiver, a sick rabbit, and asks her to look at his penis.

In a shattering scene, Fragoso describes her eight-year-old reaction to Curran’s request.

“I climbed into the cart with Fiver and said, ‘Look, Peter!  I’m a rabbit!’

“I started to drink from the water bottle, tasting the sweet metal and the sweet, warm water.  I picked up [Fiver’s food], offered it again to him, and when he refused it, I ate it myself….Peter came and picked me up gently, placed me on my feet; but I instantly sank again, to my hands and knees, to crawl on the ground like a baby, to feel the cold hard floor beneath my hands.

“‘I’m a baby now, not a rabbit.  No, wait.  I’m a baby rabbit!  Chase me!’”

Curran ignores her agitation and, dropping his pants, exposes his genitals.   “The whole contraption looked like a bunless hot dog with two partly deflated balloons attached,” Fragoso writes.  But, afraid to offend this man who has become the affectionate  male figure her life has so lacked, she tries to conceal her disgust and say something nice about the disturbing sight. “It kind of reminds me of….an ice cream cone,” she says.

I’ll spare you what happens next.  Suffice it to say that Curran makes her his sexual toy.  But after years of being abused by him, when Fragoso becomes a teenager, she turns the tables on him.  By then, aging and in ill-health, he’s become dependent on her, and knowing this, she torments him, mocking him for his weakening legs and toothless mouth and maintaining the relationship even as she begins dating boys.

Throughout this disturbing tale, Lolita from Lolita’s own viewpoint,  the author is unflinchingly honest, aware of her own complicity in the abusive relationship.  It makes her book absolutely mesmerizing. Fragoso’s insights into pedophiles and the damage they inflict on the children they entrap are profound.  But just as importantly – arguably even more importantly — she is a profoundly talented writer.  This is a book you won’t be able to put down, and once you’ve finished it, won’t be able to forget.

Enter to win a copy of Tiger, Tiger when you answer this question in the comments below: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

(See all our past winners. See official rules. One winner is chosen at random from all those who ask a question. Contest closes July 7, 2011.)

  • Susan Picard

    Another excellent review by Linda Wolfe, this time of a very disturbing, but very important book about a pathological relationship that is rarely described from the point of view of the victim.

  • Debbie

    The best book that I have read this year was, The Shack. This book allowed for the entire gamete of emotions, from anger to surprise to acceptance. I loved it!

  • hockeynanny

    Is it true that once a child is abducted and sexually abused she does not run because she just wants to stay alive. I would love to read this book because of the thoughts of the child and the woman she becomes and how she handles her abduction mentally. I hope I win and get to read this book.

  • Mary

    I really enjoyed The Red Tent, which gave me an idea of what women’s life might have been like during biblical times.

  • Dawn in Nevada

    I read mostly romances and about two a week. So for me, the best ones are the ones I rememer details about. There are two this year that stand above the rest. The first is Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer set in the WWII time era. The second is When You Dare by Lori Foster, a contemporary read. Both I would easily consider rereading.

  • Nancy

    To my surprise, Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars turned out to be fascinating and illuminating in unexpected ways, and became a favorite. It’s a winning combination of science, sociology and psychology, written with wry humor. The chapter on testing Japanese candidates for space flight (they each had to construct 1,000 origami cranes), was a wonderful way of showing deep cultural differences (their right stuff is not our right stuff). I keep thinking about various aspects of this book and what astronauts must endure in a quotidian way. Wanted to be an astronomer as a kid, so this was delicious.

  • meryl steigman

    The review gives an excellent picture of the substance of the book. I’m glad to have read the review and I’m sure Wolfe is correct that the book is unputdownable. BUT, I think Tiger Tiger would be too grim for my mind that is already absorbing the daily news.

    I’ll tuck the book away for the near future.

  • Bibliophile

    A Visit From the Goon Squad was my summer favorite, too. But I’ve been meaning to reread Lolita, and it looks like I should try Tiger, Tiger first.

  • Emma

    The best book I’ve read recently was A Visit From the Good Squad, by Jennifer Egan.

    But I’m definitely adding Tiger, Tiger to my list – great review by Linda.

  • Pattie Medeiros

    I love to read!!! The book that I recommend as the best one that I have read this year is “The Scent of Rain and Lightning” by Nancy Pickard. It had me rivited from the get go!!!

    Enjoy!!!

  • Stlmag

    The Help

  • MsMeeky

    Law of Attraction, by Michael Losier

  • Joanne Vicente

    I’m already hooked! I can’t wait to read this!

    The best book I’ve read thus far, though, is still Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which I read as a teenager and I just can’t ever forget it!

  • Terrie

    Another vote for The Help.
    Avid reader that would love to win this book.

  • jane

    Burried Prey

  • silvia rosania

    great articles

  • Carol Wong

    ‘Silver Girl’ by Elin Hilderbrand. It took me back to the days when the Bridge Over Troubled Waters came out and I love Nantucket!!!!

  • Debbiet

    Emily & Einstein! Great read & a really interesting perspective to be sure.

  • gerry

    eat, pray, love, has been my favorite so far, especially the first part of the book where she’s in italy!!!

  • sandy haber

    Sing you home, by Jodi Picoult.

    it made me laugh and cry and smile and yell at the same time!

  • Lavonne

    Loved The Awakening by Angel Hunt. Great story in itself but also was an incredible deeper allegory.

  • Betty Washington

    The best book I have read this year has been The Help…which will be a movie this August…

    Thanks,

  • Roz Rickman

    Tiger, Tiger sounds to delve deeply into our innermost selves. Would love to win this book — love books that are “unforgettable”. Thank you.

  • Wendy May

    The best book so far is “Wasted” – an autobiography of sorts about anorexia/bulemia from a survivor. I thought I know a lot about the subject but learned so much about this horrible disease.

  • Carrie Womer

    Memmonite in a Little Black Dress

  • Pam Bartholomew

    Loved Discovery of Witches and the Steig Larsson trilogy. Would love to win a copy of Tiger Tiger!

  • bobbimac

    Since I am a “readaholic” I have QUITE a few FAVS. Ready? Summer Rentals by Andrews; The Aet of Racing in the Rain; House Rules; Beach Trip; Leaving and Learning by Kingsbury; everybook written by Kristen Hannah and LUANNE RICE!
    My husband keeps asking me if I have EVER heard of the word, LIBRARY. I just smile and keep on buying. I NOW have 18 books stocked up to be read. When I get down to 2 I begin getting QUITE anxious! 🙂
    I DO believe that ANY FEMALE reader would enjoy ANY of the books I have listed! bobbi mac

  • Donna

    My Name is Mary Sutter, a civil war story, a story of a woman striving to be a Doctor, a tragic story and a love story. The author has an amazing command of the written word

  • Sheila Chaffins

    The Sorceress

  • Susan Sutton

    The Help is absolutely the best book so far this year. I’ve read quite a few that I liked but The Help is so revealing and intense; I lived during those days but in the Pacific Northwest and I had no idea that life was as it was in the South for both African Americans and Caucasion. Can’t wait for the movie!

  • Jackie

    Best Book this year is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the true story of a WWII pilot captured by the Japenese and is a story of survival and heroism. From the first page it is captivating and learning about the aircraft, what the pilots endured is fascinating. Hillenbrand has a wonderful writing style is the author of Seabiscuit.

  • Barbara

    Unbroken by Hillebrand. Varied and human story of an olympic runner who goes into the air force, is shot down, survives in a raft in shark-infested waters for over a month, and is finally picked up by the Japanese and imprisoned in a secret non-POW prison under extreme, abusive conditions.

  • shari bennetti

    The best book I have read so far this year is Evanovich’s “One for the Money” in Aruba. It was funny and kept my attention.

  • EEF

    Dan Brown’s the Da Vinci Code. I finally got around to reading it.

  • Mamavalveeta03

    I tend to think of a “beach read” as something funny, witty…maybe something that I can gently lay on my beach towel as I take a dip in the ocean and then resume reading with a cold brew when I dry off. Although, “Tiger, Tiger” sounds like a mesmerizing read, isn’t it just a little HEAVY for a beach read? I would suggest “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. It meets all of my criteria for a charming “beach read.”

  • Kathy

    the best book I’vce read this year is the Help.

  • Jane

    I would have to say that “Little Bee” is the best book I’ve read so far this year. Riveting from page one to the end.

  • Janice

    The best book I have read so far this year is Buried Alive by Joseph Finder.

  • Wendy

    The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom is my favorite so far this year, but my absolute favorite is A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. Loved it!!

  • Buttercup

    Loved “Discovery of Witches.”

  • Linda Meter

    My most recent read, one of my current faves is The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton.It was amusing, entertaining, spell binding, and finally, haunting.

  • Kelly

    For me it is the bridal series by Nora Roberts…all the details and passion in the planning and execution of the weddings is so amazing

    ..

  • Margarida

    The best book I have read this summer is “Good Night, Mr. Tom” which is set in England, my native country during WWII. Ironically this novel by Michelle Magorian, is also about an abusive adult-child relationship.

  • Sue

    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

  • popper10

    Just finished Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and thought it was great.

  • Karen Longo

    Bone Appetit

  • BlueBear

    If you haven’t read the trilogy by Steig Larsson – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, The Girl Who Played with Fire – you absolutely are missing out on an unbelievable ride! They are quick reads that follow on each other and culminate in a fantastic read. The first of the trilogy has been made into a film to be released in December and the lead will be Daniel Craig. I can’t wait!

    • Mamavalveeta03

      Watch the Swedish versions first. Stieg Larsson apparently felt that Noomi Rapace was the embodiment of the character of Lisbeth Salander. I loved the books AND the Swedish movies.

  • Rochelle Drucker

    I’m a history buff and read “The Source” by James Michener. I’ve been meaning to read this since high school but never got around to it until this year!

  • Lisa2543

    I loved The Silent Sister : The Diary of Margot Frank since I am fascinated with the concept of imagining what Anne Frank’s sister was thinking. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of my favorite books growing up.

  • Roz Rickman

    This was a real surprise to me —
    “The Richest Man in Babylon”, by George S. Clason.
    For anyone who wants a better understanding of finance, what a find !

  • marilyn moffatt

    the best book I have EVER read is called TESTIMONY by anita Shreve. It tells the story of how one event in someone’s life can alter the course of many other people’s lives. It was thought provoking and right on. I don’t know what year it was written but I am glad I had an opportunity to read it.

  • Norma Taylor

    The best book I have read this year is The Glass Castle: A Memoir by J. Walls
    It is a disturbing account of a highly disfunctional family and how the author triumps over all of it. It is excellent.

  • hockeynanny

    The best beach book I have read is Sand Castles, I couldn’t put it down.

  • Delores Kenyon

    The Help

  • Shelby

    The Help – loved it…

  • starsmom

    South of Broad – Pat Conroy

  • Ivy Pittman

    Lima Nights! This is the perfect read – sultry and hot-tempered characters in a hot South American country!

  • Catherine Sweeney

    A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

  • Janice

    It has to be the classic Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

  • Susan

    To just name a few, I throughly enjoyed, “The Help”, “Little Bee”, and “The Glass Castle”. All were page turners and did not want them to end. I suggest if you have not read them, to add them to your list of books to read!!!

  • Patricia

    I just loved the book, Folly Beach by Dorthea Benton Frank.

  • Sharon

    I loved “Fireworks Over Toccoa” by Jeffery Stepakoff – a terrific love story!

  • bonnie

    have not read anything great in a while

  • Diane

    Angel Sister…………..originally bought the book because my granddaughter posed for the character Kate in the book. She is the young adult on the book’s back cover. It turned out to be a very interesting book and I enjoyed it very much. And I recommend it highly if you just want a clean, interesting fictional book about long ago to read. Brought back memories!

  • ROBYN E

    I DO NOT HAVE A BEST READ AS OF YET. WOULD LOVE TO WIN A COPY OF THIS.

  • Gaye

    Just finished Water For Elephants, great read.

  • Barbiegrrrl

    Half the sky- Inspiring, discouraging, it made me feel grateful for what I have, want to help others (I give $$ to Heifer International), enlightened, REALLY ANGRY that people are so cruel, and hopeful that people, especially women, are so resiliant. It made me question what I do for others and even made me think about that hidden desire to become a nurse. In other words- it touched me like no book has touched. And, as a reminder to truly live each day, honoring myself and the other women I love and care about, I started painting.

  • Georgia

    The most compelling book I am reading this summer is The Bible…amazing and profound…

    A good fictional beach read is: Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn…

  • deestea

    ‘Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt’ by Beth Hoffman and ‘Pie Town’ by Lynne Hinton – I didn’t want either of them to end!

  • Toni Covici

    the HELP

  • Pam Meerbrey

    South of Broad, Always Too Late, Voices of Support for those who have lost both parents, Autobiography of a Recovering Skin Head.

  • kat

    I just finished Water for Elephants, didn’t want it to end….a great book by the pool or anywhere.

  • Joan

    Night Road by Hannah Kristin is the best book I ‘ve read this year.

  • Gayle

    Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt
    History of a Suicide by Jill Blalosky and
    An Exclusive Love trans. by Anthea Bell

  • Kathy Skinner

    I have read so many this year but my two favorites were Better Off by Eric Brende about living for a year in an Amish-like community. Also The Long Road Home by Mary Alice Monroe.

  • hrbeck_98

    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

  • Kathleen

    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a beautiful coming of age story of a woman in Florida in the 1930s.

  • judith judith

    The Help … fabulous book ..

  • Kathleen Schaeffer

    The best book this year has been Oprah, by Kitty Kelley.

  • Pam

    Love You More by Lisa Gardner

  • inMO

    The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

  • Melinda Herman

    The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
    To the End of the Land, by David Grossman

  • Indigo Girl

    The best book I’ve read this summer is “Big Girl Small” by Rachel Dewoskin.

  • AliHayden

    Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter & Sweet was good and showed a segment of the WWII history that’s not really covered much in schools.

  • Roxann frost

    I have read several books this year. I loved cutting for stone. I also really enjoyed The Rho Agenda books, I can’t wait for the third one, I have never read science fiction!

  • belindabg

    I just finished ‘Dreams of Joy’ by Lisa See. It’s the sequel to her magnificent ‘Shanghai Girls’ and was a terrific read.

  • cyndib

    i think it is a tie between The Help and Winter Garden. They were both ,great books!

  • gramhebert

    dear john Nicholas Sparks

  • Sonja Turetsky

    The best book I’ve read so far this summer is “Shiver” by Lisa Jackson. It will make your blood run cold even on the hottest South Florida afternoon.

  • Maria U.

    ‘Heaven is for Real’ a little boys journey of his trip to heaven and back.”

  • Ginnie Kellum

    I agree about “The Help” being impossible to put down. After watching the “Mildred Pierce” miniseries on TV, I downloaded the book onto my Kindle and could not stop reading….just a fantastic book.

  • Kim

    A Visit from the Goon Squad.

  • pamela

    The Help and anything by Linda See

  • Robin Bingman

    Unbreakable by Laura Hillenbrand

  • novokate

    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by
    Siddhartha Mukherjee . It is a true page turner-reads like fiction but unfortunately is very real. It is written for the lay person and if many read it then there will be a much stronger understanding of the disease that will eventually kill one in four of us and serve as basis for discussing cancer and the public policy around it.

  • Sally

    the best book I’ve read this year is Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende. Couldn’t put it down. Also enjoyed Art and Madness by Anne Roiphe

  • Becky

    The Help,was the best of several I’ve read this year.

  • elizabeth willingham

    The best two books I’ve read this year, and I read them both lwithin the past two weeks, are “Lowcountry Summer” and “Folly Beach”, both by Dorothea Benton Frank.

  • Sactokaren

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. I have a soft spot for stories about quirky kids and this fits the bill.

  • DOTTI

    IN MY BOOK STUDY GROUPS WE HAVE READ FANTASTIC BOOKS THIS YEAR BUT THE MOST COMPELLING BY FAR WAS “CUTTING FOR STONE” BY ABRAHAM VERGHESE. INCREDIBLE READ!!

  • Amy Gerling

    I loved Eat, Pray Love!!

    • Andrea

      wowa nice framingI like itriemnd me of a nice and sometimes dangerous hobby I used have in the past in Paris.Down along parking lot ramp at full speed with inline skatting.Can i print it for my own usaged ?

  • Peg Babcock

    You Can be Happy No Matter What

  • Miriam Pinheiro

    “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett.

  • Sharon Clark

    SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN by Lisa See.

  • kms

    Just finished “Harvesting the Heart” by Jodi Picoult. I could not put this book down. I love the way Ms. Picoult weaves a story. Keeps me on my toes from begining to end, as with every book of hers I have read.

  • GailEiffel

    Cutting For Stone–best book read so far this year!

  • Beth W.

    I should be embaressed…but I just now read “To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee. It was required reading in school for my sons, but I am not sure I had required reading…so I am going to the library and checking out classics I should have read by now. I have Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” on my nightstand now.

    • Mamavalveeta03

      “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the best ever and the movie is wonderful, too. And definitely read “Pride and Prejudice” and savor the language of Jane Austen…and her fantastic sense of humor!

  • Mary Ward

    The best book I’ve read so far this year has been The First Husband by Laura Dave.

  • Peggy Lanman

    Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. Excellent, like all of his books.

  • Dorothy Ledford

    The Help was the best book I have read in a long time.

  • Kris

    Best Book this year For You Mom Finally by Ruth Reichl

  • April Shuman

    Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

  • Sara Jones

    Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff — FOF review was right: good read; great love story.

  • Terry

    South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. I Love anything that Pat Conroy writes. This one is right up there with Prince of Tides!

  • Brenda Rosenberg

    I read a lot of books and I can’t really pick out one favorite among them : The Help, Major Pettigrews Last Stand (fantastic first time author), Gravedigger’s Daughter, Nancy
    Turner’s trilogy including Sarah’s Quilt (the other 2 don’t come to mind are just a few that I really call favorites.

  • Troye

    Loved The Help and South of Broad…also you gotta love Fly Away Home, all great stories that you don’t want to end, or you’re asking where in the heck is the sequel.

  • ruthiekb72@yahoo.com

    Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese…absolutely wonderful with gorgeous writing!

  • jeanne

    The best book I have read this summer is The 19th Wife. Fascinating glimpse into the Mormons in the 1800s from different points of view.

  • user32511

    The best book I’ve read so far this year is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

  • ina sirkis

    the help-couldn’t put it down, was sorry when it was over