Lily was born in south-eastern Isaan near the Mekong River, the only daughter of Chinese-Thais who owned a shop in their small village. Her parents had a close friend that Lily called Uncle who used to smile at her and take her gifts as a small child.
However, when she was just eleven years old the nature of the gifts changed and there was always a price to pay for them that Lily hated. Dare she risk upsetting her parents by telling them about it?
An accident of fate at school gave Lily an idea how to put an end to the problem once and for all and her parents came to realise what had been going on in their daughter's life. Soon after the incident, Lily's father died.
This review was originally written as a guest post for The Bookie Monster
Tiger Lily of Bangkok is a story of tragedy, loss, and also confusion about how the bad things that happened to Lily - that caused her to be ignored and feared by people her own age in her home village - also benefited her in many ways. If she had not had to deal with her "uncle" then she didn't believe she would have had the chance to live in the city and go to university.
She comes to understand that the monetary compensation she received from her shame would not be enough to live on comfortably while paying for school, and so she takes on boyfriends who give her money and gifts, and this is not an unusual practice. It is a sad life; she doesn't have anyone to really care for, and doesn't let anyone get close to her. She never allows anyone to know the truth about her past or even see where she lives. She lies to the boyfriends, makes up different names and personas for them, and tells them she spends weekends back with her mother helping out in her shop in order to spend weekends alone.
Her unhappiness grows, and it is almost like she separates into two different people. One is violent and lashing out at people in order to take some vengeance, to feel some justice for what she went through as a child. The other is sad, lonely, and struggling to find a way to have a normal life and find someone to have a real boyfriend/girlfriend relationship with. The book makes you wonder if she had managed to kill her uncle when she was a child, or if someone else had, would it have been enough to soothe her burning need for someone to be held accountable for his crime? Would she still have developed into the person she became, or would she have been able to let it go and live a life as other teenagers did?
Lily's story kept me interested and wondering if she was going to get away with the unbelievable things she did or if it would come crashing down around her. I wasn't sure if I wanted her to get caught or not. It also begs the question - do child abusers deserve what they get? Who should be able to dole out the punishment?
I was glad that the book ended with a ray of hope.
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. The story was interesting, well planned out, and I enjoyed it.