Grace “Tiger” Tolliver and her mom June have always faced the world together, fighting to overcome adversity. They manage to survive on the money from June’s jobs at Bonita’s daycare, as the county Bookmobile lady, and by selling jams and jellies in the summer out of their Jellymobile. They are a “well-oiled, good-looking, and good-smelling machine.” Tiger cannot fathom it being any other way, until she is thrust into life alone as a result of a fatal brain aneurysm.
There is no evidence of the existence of Tiger’s father, “The Person Who Shall Not Be Named,” or any other relative. Therefore, Tiger is placed into the foster system as a ward of the state, away from her home and her life as she has always known it to be. Armed with debilitating grief, guilt over the last words her mother heard, a suitcase of personal belongings, and sheathed in the armor of an ever-dirtier old-fashioned lace dress, Tiger must reach for the people who will find her in the dark and pull her back into the light. With the aid of her friends Cake and Thaddeus, some unexpected companions from the Grief Group, and the efforts of her social worker, Karen, can Tiger can learn to roar again?
Kathleen Glasgow has outdone herself in this haunting story of family and loss. Tiger’s pain seeps off of the page and worms its way into your soul as you witness her sinking into herself and disappearing into her grief. She is unable to eat, refuses to remove her dress armor, and develops a strange pride in her ability to cry silently. She struggles to find ways to cope, choosing those that prove damaging. This eventually leads Tiger down a path of self-destruction that will leave you holding your breath, pleading for some relief for her.
When reading I always search for a visceral experience. I want to feel the emotions of the characters as if I am living within the story. Glasgow really delivers in this novel, breaking my heart and fighting to mend it back together again. If you, dear reader, are of like mind, pick up a copy of How to Make Friends with the Dark. Just be prepared to have your soul crushed.