Publication date: July 17th 2012
In Tigers in Red Weather It’s 1945 and in a small apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts cousins Nick and Helena prepare to celebrate the end of the war and the beginning of their lives. Helena is leaving to be with her new husband, Avery, an insurance salesman in Hollywood and Nick is heading to Florida to rejoin her husband, returning naval officer, Hughes. As the years pass both have to adjust to the reality of married life, with Helena accepting the odd passion of her husband for his long-dead former girlfriend and Nick, trying to come to terms with a withdrawn Hughes, for whom she hopes
that maybe when he felt that everything was good and safe, maybe he would wake up and want to be free again, with her.
In the summer of 1959 the cousins reunite at Tiger House, their family home on Martha’s Vineyard. They bring with them their children, Ed and Daisy. In the midst of their traditional, country club summer everything is upended when Ed and Daisy discover the dead body of a local maid in the woods. Far from being the focus of the plot, this event is what allows author Klaussmann to go more deeply into the hearts and minds of her characters. For some, what was only in the shadows that summer becomes evermore clear in the following years.
Klaussmann chooses to divide Tigers in Red Weather into sections for the key characters and in doing so is able to present the past from their perspective and provide insight that would otherwise be lost. For some there is an event or point when things changed and actions that would not have been considered become the only option. For others, change has been slow and insidious. It is also in these moments when the truth is told even if we are not yet aware of it, such as Nick’s telling 12-year-old Daisy, “If there’s one thing you can be sure about in this life, it’s that you won’t always be kissing the right person.” Or Ed’s admission that “Sometimes I could do that, be surprisingly near to someone, and they didn’t even sense I was there. I hadn’t quite figured out the trick to it, but I knew it had something to do with being very still, not just on the outside, but inside my head, too.”
Tigers in Red Weather is a complex story skillfully woven by Klaussmann. From the multiple viewpoints to the shifting timeline she still manages to draw the reader in without confusion. Her descriptive force and ability to relay what is not being said make for an engrossing experience. For those reasons, the final section of the book feels like overkill. So many sordid, sad but true facts of human nature and relationships had already been unveiled; adding a deeply flawed character is unnecessary. This is a strong first effort and didn’t need an over-the-top ending.