Title: Tiger Mending (from The Color Master short story collection)
Author: Aimee Bender
Genre: Short story
‘That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.’
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Caution: spoilers ahead!
I didn’t realise The Color Master wasn’t a novel until I got home and started reading (I really should be more observant). My only previous experience of Aimee Bender was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which was both very original and just a little disappointing, though there was certainly enough there to make me want to read more of her work. But The Color Master certainly didn’t disappoint, and I was absolutely blown away by many of the stories in the collection. Even so, however unusual it is for me to review a single short story, I want to specifically talk about Tiger Mending, as it made quite the impression on me.
Tiger Mending is about a girl who is asked by her sister to travel to Malaysia for a secret project – to sew up injured tigers who seem to be tearing themselves open mysteriously, again and again. As her sister is so distraught by the situation, the girl decides to find out what is happening to the tigers. I had so many questions, and hurried through the rest of the story for answers. Who or what was hurting the tigers? Poachers? Barbed wire fencing? What could possibly tear them open in such a savage way?
I finished the story and closed the book, feeling quite disturbed. My questions had been answered, though they didn’t sit well with me. The wounds the tigers had were self-inflicted; they were hurting themselves, again and again. The pain, it seemed, was not enough for them to learn to stop. Each time they were hurt, they crawled back to be sewn together once more. An endless cycle. When she finds out this information, the girl, always so dependent on her older sister, leaves the next day and flies home. I thought this was very interesting – the older sister found flying alone very frightening, and it would have taken a lot of strength for the girl to leave her. I interpreted it as her breaking the cycle of dependence she had in her own life.
I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this intriguing short story. Are there other ways the story can be interpreted?