If the Tiger

Terry Farish, Author
Terry Farish, Author Steerforth Press $21 (0p) ISBN 978-1-883642-15-0
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Like Robert Olen Butler, Farish threads Eastern mysticism and the residual pain of war into a universal human story--this one of mother loss. Laurel Sullivan, daughter of a U.S. Air Force colonel, becomes bound up in the life of Chanty Sun, a survivor of the Pol Pot regime, after Laurel's car strikes and kills Chanty's niece in a New Hampshire snowstorm. Both young women are motherless: Laurel's eternal-hippie mother, Annie, who's left the family, makes chalices out of tin foil candy wrappers in a diner in Franconia; Chanty's mother, Rithy, was tied to a tree in Cambodia to starve to death for stealing a mango. Believing that ghosts sing to children to go away with them, Chanty fears that Rithy will call her 11-month-old son. So as radio bulletins carry reports of her father's deployment in the Persian Gulf war, Laurel drives Chanty to Lowell, Mass., across a landscape of laundromats and malls, to pray at a Buddhist temple. There, Chanty is found by her child's father, the war-damaged Kob, who has the evil ``tiger eye'' and abuses her. Loving and needing one another, Laurel and Chanty work off the peripatetic ways of the refugee and the ``permanent dislocation'' of military family life as they grapple for a sense of place, and of connectedness. Farish's second adult novel (after Flower Shadows) is quiet, sensuous and intensely moving. (June)
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