80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the most visceral and heartfelt books I have ever read. It is a brave and painful book, difficult to read but beautifully wrought. From the time she was eight years old, Maugaux Fragoso was sexually abused by a man named Peter who is 51 years old when he meets her. The abuse lasts for years and years. Peter grooms Margaux, enchanting her with his home that is filled with animals like hamsters, iguanas, a dog and rabbits. He plays with her as if he was a child. He charms her, acts like a father and pretends to give her unconditional love. However, all this time he is truly a predator, attempting to begin the sexual abuse that is initiated in earnest when Margaux is eight years old.
Margaux becomes completely dependent on Peter and believes that he is the only one in the world that loves her. At times, however, she acts out in ways that indicate she has been abused but the adults in her life do not take notice. She has fugue states, terrible anger issues, spends the nights with Peter. Margaux's mother is seriously mentally ill and encourages her relationship with Peter. Her father is physically and emotionally abusive to Margaux and to her mother. Her father, at one point, suspects that Margaux is being sexually abused, but shows no empathy. In fact, if she were to admit her abuse, he'd put her on the street. When Margaux is in high school, a social worker is called in because people in the neighborhood are suspicious of Margaux's relationship with Peter but she defends him. It is not that different from Stockholm Syndrome.
As a therapist, I understand the trauma that Margaux was experiencing and her need to believe that Peter was her love. "I was Peter's religion" she says. She would put on alter-personalities to please Peter and also to believe she had some control over him. One of these personalities is a "bad girl" named Nina. Nina acts rough and tough and streetwise with a foul mouth. She punishes Peter. At times their relationship becomes physical and Peter tries to choke Margaux, gives her a black eye and punches her in the face. "I like being Nina". "It seemed as though Peter's other self Mr. Nasty was dependent on Nina and that he needed her to survive. The favors she gave him made him feel guilty and caused him to owe favors in return. This all amounted to me being in charge" Margaux needed to feel some element of control because in reality she was under Peter's control entirely.
Peter tells her that "all men like young girls whether they admit it or not. Most guys are just dishonest about it". "If you were to openly admit, yes, I find young girls attractive, you'd be burned at the stake." Peter also tries to get Margaux to believe that she is his only 'love' but she finds out that, like other pedophiles, this is not the case. There have been others, he has been in jail, and is chock-filled with secrets that gradually come out. He brainwashes her over and over again with lies and twisted love.
Margaux begins to believe that only someone like Peter - old, without teeth, perverted - could love someone like her. She is an outcast at school and doesn't know how to interact with young people her age. All of her life is spent trying to please Peter. "What did kids my own age talk about? If they'd seen me with Peter, who would I say he was? My father? He was so old he could have been my grandfather."
I encourage anyone who is in the field of trauma or sexual abuse to read this book. If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, read this book. If you want to read a beautiful memoir written by a brave and courageous woman, read this book. It is without comparison in its forthrightness, pain and hope.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2011
When Margaux Fragoso's memoir came to my attention, my first impulse was to avoid it. In these times of awful news and crass motives, I was not inclined to give further attention to the subject--pedophilia--or the possibly exploitive author and her publisher. Then I read the first dozen pages and realized Fragoso could write. I noted that her publisher was the fine Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I wondered if my reluctance was narrow, or even fearful. Eventually I knew I would disappoint myself, and possibly miss an opportunity to read a good book, if I didn't give Tiger, Tiger a try. Soon, despite some negative reviews, I was deep in the story.
With a mentally ill mother and a mean-spirited, alcoholic father, lonely seven-year-old Margaux meets fifty-one-year-old Peter at a local swimming pool. He is playing with the sons of his roommate, and they give the appearance of a happy family. Impulsively, she asks to play with them and is immediately welcomed. Soon, Peter invites Margaux and her mother over to his house, where they meet the extraordinary menagerie that he tends, including a small caiman crocodile who falls asleep as Peter rubs its belly. This animal whisperer soon has both mother and daughter charmed as well. Before long they are visiting Peter twice a week. He offers Margaux tremendous freedom at his home, and though she doesn't like what feels like pushiness in him, she revels in the liberty. When her mother complains about and makes fun of her father, Margaux joins in, Peter sympathizes, and the father is set as the outsider, excluded from their fun.
Fragoso gives us a detailed description of Curran's seductive manipulation of the entire family, as he gradually inserts himself into their lives and convinces them of his good intentions, and as they close their eyes to the result. Using guilt and bribery, elaborate fantasy play, and a child's longing for love, he makes Margaux his co-conspirator and persuades her that society's rules don't apply to them.
The strength of this book is Fragoso's ability to make that child's perspective vivid and believable. As Curran takes each uncomfortably intimate step, he finds ways to calm and entice her. Within a year he manages to make the relationship sexual, and Fragoso has begun to experience real dissociation from her own senses and emotions.
For fourteen more years, she is bound to him with complex feelings of her own power, vulnerability, distorted affection, and desire. Though some reviewers have been critical because Fragoso seems too loyal and understanding of her victimizer's troubles, it is those very feelings that are important here. The dialogue and details are doubtless more recreation than fact, yet she works through her own healing in the process of writing, and she could do no less than acknowledge the attractions that brought her to care for this broken and dangerous man.
For some victims of childhood sexual trauma, this book may be more troubling than helpful. But for those who want to understand how, if not why, such damage can be done to a child, it offers a cautionary tale worth reading. Certainly Margaux Fragoso has shown us that telling our stories can help us comprehend our own behaviors and encourage recovery. As she contemplates the Tiger in Curran, in herself, and potentially in us all, she asks with Blake: "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"
And of course, beyond comprehension, he did. Though we may flinch, we cannot stop the Tigers or save their targets until we see them as they are. This book illuminates that forest of the night where they abide.
by Susan Schoch
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Margaux Fragoso was in an abusive relationship with a sexual predator for 15 years, from age 7 to 22, and now some 10 years later she writes her memoir about what it was like. I had read a number of great reviews about this book, and decided to pick it up recently, even though I knew the topic is painful and it would likely make for devastating reading. I was right on the latter.
In "Tiger, Tiger" (322 pages), the author retells the story of her 15 year relationship with a man called Peter, who befriended her at age 7 while she was in a dysfunctional family, and eventually corraled her into a sexual abusive relationship. You might ask why didn't she stop it as she grew older, but you need to read the author's account to truly understand. What struck me the most about reading this book is how "objective" the author brings the story. She at first seems not to blame Peter for what happened to her. But in the book's Afterword, she comes out and does point out what a sexual predator Peter in fact was, and asks for solutions: "It is true that strict enforcement of current penalties such as prison time for sex offenders is a vital part of the solution. Unfortunately, most pedophiles would be hard-pressed to find treatment options before a conviction as occurred".
It appears that the author has moved on with her life, as apparently she is now married and has a daughter. The very last lines of the book bring a ray of hope: "I make up stories for my daughter just as my father has done for me when I was her age. Some family traditions I keep; others must end with me". Wow. The author took an incredible leap of faith coming out and telling her painful story. I hope that lessons can be learned from it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2011
I found this book very real and poignant. We need to understand pedophilia in order to do something about it. Burning people at the stake won't stop it. It has been recorded for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Here is a child who was obviously abused but nobody stopped it. That is in large part because she protected her abuser. She really thought they were "in love". How much damage would have been done if he were villainized before she came to terms with their relationship. I think humanizing this man does so much for understanding what happens with child sexual abuse. We need to be sensitive to how a child becomes vulnerable and have some sensitivity to who a pedophile is and how he/she exploits. This was a difficult read but I really think we need to deal with this reality. Porn? How so? Porn is stimulating. This was not. I think this was a phenomenally important book. We need to be sensitive to the child's perception. All abuse situations are different. This guy never got convicted but molested quite a few kids. He was a master manipulator. She was an incredibly strong girl and in the end she was stronger than anybody because she came out in one piece no thanks to anybody else.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
what they do isn't harmful."
Not since reading a true crime story about infamous Canadian serial killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo have I felt so uncomfortable. In 1985, when Margaux Fragoso was only seven years old, she met an energetic 51-year-old man named Peter Curran at the local pool in Union City, New Jersey. Soon, her mother had agreed to biweekly play dates with the old man and her daughter. Peter the Pedophile gradually got his grips into the girl and never let go. He seems to have known that she was just the right kind of kid to groom for his dirty deeds: her mother was a mental case and her father was an abusive alcoholic with misplaced priorities. He continued to abuse her for 15 years, until his self-induced death at the age of 66.
That any parent (friend, acquaintance) would remain unsuspicious about the potential inappropriateness of a situation involving an adult male spending an inordinate amount of time alone with a young child is incomprehensible. The author, however, reminds readers that persons like Peter are "masters of deception." Anyone willing to learn the details of what Fragoso endured is likely to squirm as they are revealed. In Tiger, Tiger, Ms. Frangoso provides an uncomfortably honest account of her 15 year manipulation by a pedophile. Also good: Even Silence Has an End by Betancourt; Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen; and The Summer of Ordinary Ways by Nicole Lea Helget.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2011
This book was interesting but hard to read. As a father of two girls I found it very difficult to read the graphic description of the abuse that the author had to endure. I understand though, why she felt the need to include it. If she hadn't then this book would have probably read like a romance novel.
What this book succeeds in is telling a chilling detailed account of a predator and his prey. You can see from the very moment he met the author every single action he took was in some way geared to grooming her to be nymphet love. As the reader you realize it immediately, sadly though, it took the author 15 years to come to the same conclusion.
As the other reviews mention the level of deception is huge here. The author makes it clear and understandable why she actually loved her abuser and went to great lengths to protect him. I personally also believe that the protagonist, Peter, succeeded in deceiving himself to a degree as it seems he truly believed he was in love and cared deeply for the author (although he was in his 50's and she was 8 years old) but the reader can clearly see how much harm he constantly caused the "one he loves".
A great book, but a scary read for any parent.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2011
wow...as a sexual abuse survivor, I chose this book as the book had been reviewed by Ophra WInfrey's staff. It was a emotional ride for me as I read how calculating the perpertrator in this book was....THat as a small child, we dont even know we are being manipulated into this, yet we are the ones who carry all the guilt. I found it cathartic to read her story, including the parts of her going along with the abuse after a while as it was the only attention she was able to get in her life.....this is a hard book to read, emotionally, but the MOST honest also, !
23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2011
When I attended school with Margaux, she wrote unflinching poetry that was vivid and descriptive--and always told a story. We are no longer in touch, but I was thrilled to see that she has managed to publish this memoir. This is a first book for Margaux and a departure from poetry, however, it is a worthy first book, and an unflinching look at how a pedophile manipulates and grooms his quarry. I have read reviews that criticized her sentence structure and tendency to re-create long chunks of dialogue. Recreating dialogue from memory is a topic that creative nonfiction writers often debate, because memory is not really faithful enough to be recalled verbatim. In this instance, I would say that Margaux is writing from her heart's voice. I would say that any parent with young children should read this book carefully, and try to gain some insight into the kind of tactics child molesters use. If nothing else, it is an invaluable aid in preventing the same kind of psychological heartbreak Margaux endured.
36 of 51 people found the following review helpful
If you hover over 2-stars, it says that means, "I don't like it." If you hover over 3-stars, you see, "It's okay." I'm giving this book 3 stars so the people who love it won't hate me, but I really didn't like it much at all.
A victim of child abuse seeks memoirs of other victims for healing. This book doesn't offer that. Rather, it elevates and excuses the abuser throughout the text. The author writes her sexual exploits graphically enough to thrill those who abuse children, but doesn't show the abuser for what he is. The final feeling I have for this book is that people who have never been sexually abused will think it's super sensitive and informative about the life of a victim. Those who have suffered this particular type of hell will have painful flashbacks with no healing hand applied whatsoever.
My advice is don't buy this book for a victim because you want to help them heal. If you're researching what it's like to be sexually abused from age 6 to 22 by an old man, and you want to know the reasoning behind why the victim enjoyed it and missed his attentions when he stopped...and why the abuser thought it was okay to have sex with a child...this is an excellent book for research.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2011
This is a memoir about a 15 year relationship, that happens to be with a pedophile. There is no physical aggression, no rape in the simple sense of that word. But there is lots of emotional manipulation, the kind of sly aggression that an adult can perpetrate on an unformed child. The physical relationship is so tentative, and ultimately consensual, that I experienced this book as a special case of emotional incest. Fragoso's identity never had a chance to develop; her desires and sense of self were fully dominated by the manipulations of her much older "partner". He was a pitiful character, and his emotional dependency was a big piece of what drove her childish commitment to his needs. She tells us enough about her parents that we can infer that, as a small child, she was off to a bad start long before she met 51 year old Peter when she was only 7 -- the mentally ill mother and the father who was full of manic resentment, hate, frustration and weirdly pompous grandiosity. She was invisible to them, and then "raised" by a pedophile who used her as the prop for his insecurities. Despite the charged subject matter, the book often feels "boring", a bit too much like reportage, a bit like the point of view of the author is still not well defined, as if the author is still a bit of a blur. The theft of identity in childhood, before it has had a chance to form, can take a lifetime to overcome.