Tigers in Red Weather
Klaussmann’s debut starts innocently, with Nick and her cousin Helena celebrating the end of World War II on a hot summer night in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both are readying themselves to join their husbands—Helena’s in Hollywood, Nick’s near Jacksonville, Florida. This scene of carefree gaiety and the focus on the resumption of normality is all too brief, however, as reality sets in. Nick’s husband, Hughes, comes back from war a different man, not the eager risk-taking lover she remembers. Helena’s Avery turns out to be more interested in a crazy film project than in earning a living.
What follows are scenes of family life, told from the perspectives of various family members, and covering the next two decades with the summer of 1959 as the focal point. That summer, Nick has a spectacular house party, two children see something they shouldn’t, adults do things they regret later, and suddenly, “normal” seems a lot further away. The one point of stability, as with many families, isn’t a person, but rather a place: Tiger House on Martha’s Vineyard is where Nick’s family gathers, every summer. It’s here that promises are made, lies are told, and people of all ages learn about life, love, and community. You can hear the dance music and smell the sunscreen in Klaussmann’s descriptions of the festive atmosphere, and she’s spot on in her descriptions of the restrictions on and yearnings of the housewives of the time. The darkness at the edges of the façade of family and community invades even Tiger House when the truth of what happened that fateful summer finally comes to light.
This terrific beach read will make you look carefully at those around you next time you hit the sandy shores of the Hamptons or the Cape.