Short Story Review: Tiger Mending by Aimee Bender

Tiger Mending

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?


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  • Reply The Geek Undergraduate

    This Story also left me unsettled with more questions than answers, I like to pick apart stories and usually I can find some kind of meaning in them, I would like to come back to this story at a later point in my life and see if I can find some clarity in it – as it stands It feels like the story is based around dependency and jelousy but I feel as if the meaning has flown over my head and left me wondering – what was actually going on in this story?

    July 1, 2015 at 3:41 pm
  • Reply Emma @ Wandering Words

    I agree with you. Aimee Bender is a very skilled writer, and I feel that her intention is to always leave her stories just a little bit unfinished. Sometimes this is frustrating because there is no sense of closure, but mostly is just makes the story more thought-provoking. I think I might come back to this story too one day and read it with a fresh outlook!

    July 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm
  • Reply Twelve Days of Bookmas (4/12) | Top 5 Recommendations from 2015 | Wandering Words

    […] It isn’t often I read a short story collection all the way through – I usually pick and choose the stories I want to read, and skip over the rest.  The Color Master changed that.  One of my favourite genres is magic realism (to read and to write), and most of Aimee Bender’s unusual stories are within this category.  My review of Tiger Mending, one of my favourite short stories in the collection, can be found here. […]

    December 28, 2015 at 8:19 am
  • Reply Emily By Novala Takemoto A collection of Gothic Lolita stories

    […] short story collections at the moment I can’t get enough of them, from Zoo by Otsuichi to The Color Master By Aimee Bender (as reviewed by Wandering words)  I find short story collections hold so much […]

    August 12, 2016 at 7:51 pm
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