The Night Tiger
By Yangsze Choo
Flatiron Books, 9781250175465, January 2020, 384pp.
The Short of It:
There is an awful lot going on in this story and honestly it was rather exhausting to read.
The Rest of It:
Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker. It’s an honest living but doesn’t pay enough to help pay her mother’s Mahjong debt so she takes a job working in a dance hall. These places have poor reputations so she spends much of her time hiding this job from her family and friends. One night, as she is dancing with a rather mysterious man, a glass vial falls out of his pocket. Thinking it might be valuable, Ji Lin quickly tucks it away, desperately hoping she isn’t accused of being a pickpocket.
Inside the vial is a shriveled up finger, preserved in salt. What does it mean? It is used for magic? Has it been cursed? Where did it come originally? This finger lures her down an adventurous path in search of its meaning.
When I said earlier that this book had a lot going on, man, I wasn’t kidding. Ji Lin has to deal with her mother’s constant inquiries about male suitors, her abusive step-father who takes his anger out on everyone, including Ji Lin’s mother and her step-brother, Shin. Ji Lin would love to be a nurse and yet she spends her days fighting off men who want to do more than dance with her.
With all this going on, there is also a houseboy who sees death, people going missing, a rogue tiger is said to be the cause, and doctors going back and forth about missing body parts and people dropping dead from poisoning.
My main issue with this story is that it jumped all over the place. I didn’t get to spend time with any one character for long and overall the story was fantastical and not believable. The other issue I had is the one thing that WAS carried throughout the story, the attraction between Shin and Ji Lin, step-siblings. Not related by blood but still. I could not get past the cringe factor.
This is a book club pick and I know many readers who found this book quite entertaining. I, however, did not. It was just okay for me. If the story had focused on one main character and really delved into his or her story, I’d be more invested but with all the running around and fantastical elements (ghost tiger) I was over it.
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