Unembellished and forthright, The Tiger Mom’s Tale is a touching story that illuminates intricacies of race, ethnicity, traditions and stereotypes.
Thirty-something Lexa Thomas is a fitness trainer living in New York City, and she’s trying to adjust to the news that her white mother is divorcing Lexa’s white stepfather after falling for an Asian American acupuncturist. Then Lexa receives a call from her half sister in Taiwan, Hsu-Ling, who informs Lexa that their biological father has died. This stirs up memories of what happened during Lexa’s last visit to Taiwan, when she was forced to abandon her father and her heritage 22 years ago.
But Hsu-Ling has more news. Their Uncle Pong has also died, within moments of their father’s death, and he left a mysterious letter for Lexa. Encouraged by her two half sisters, one Taiwanese and the other a white American, Lexa returns to Taiwan to claim her rightful place in the family.
Lyn Liao Butler’s tale is a literary melting pot brimming with blended families and cultures. The straightforward, exposition-heavy narrative is sprinkled with Mandarin and broad references to different Asian foods and cultural elements, although the lack of development of these aspects may distract the reader from fully immersing themselves in Lexa’s journey to connect with her heritage. Scenes that reveal backstory and the surprising events that turned Lexa away from her Taiwanese relatives slowly tease out the novel’s climax.
Lexa’s gentle humility and quiet confidence will garner the support of readers looking for a likable protagonist. A heartwarming romantic subplot is a sweet result of Lexa’s transformation and self-acceptance and provides another union of ethnic backgrounds.
Filled with potential book club discussion topics and perfect for fans of YA novels by Jenny Han, The Tiger Mom’s Tale will unleash timely dialogue about identity, family secrets and cultural divides.