The Pathological & the Privileged
By Neely Kennedy
In the Ladies' Home Journal Book Club July selection, Tigers in Red Weather, debut author Liza Klaussman tells the Post-World War II story of two cousins, Nick and Helena, and the secrets that undo them. Their dramas span the course of their rocky marriages, only children, and a diabolical murder that turns their high-society hometown of Martha’s Vineyard upside down. In order to escape from her ordinary life as a mother, and as a wife to the dashing Hughes Derringer, Nick is involved in a string of affairs that offer her the attention and excitement she craves. Simultaneously, Helena, the lamb to Nick’s wolf, marries Avery Lewis, a Hollywood opportunist who controls her with pills and booze.
By giving each character the opportunity to narrate, Klaussman artfully reveals the underlying motivations behind their actions. Ultimately, the twisting plot leads the reader to question whether personal character is made or born, as each seeks to assign blame for their shortcomings.
Daisy blames herself for not possessing her mother’s allure over men.“They watched as Peaches walked up confidently and exchanged several words with the bartender, who dutifully began pouring two glasses. That’s what her mother had been talking about, Daisy realized. That’s what the it is, she thought, and she felt like crying. She didn’t have it, and she never would.”
Expecting him to share her need for wild abandon, Nick blames Hughes for her infidelities:“You were supposed to love me. Instead, you made everything, I don’t know, blank. You turned my life gray.”
Always the victim, Helena blames her cousin, Nick for her feelings of inferiority: “You’ve never cared about me, not really. I’m your shadow, there to make you look better, and I can have your scraps, when you’ve finished. But I can never have something of my own. It just kills you doesn’t it?”
Hughes blames the war for changing his character:“He hated himself. It was this damn war, turning everything upside down. You couldn’t be one person one day and another next, but that’s what it did to you. He sure as hell didn’t like the person he was this morning. He was weak. He had promised to love and protect Nick and instead he betrayed her.”
Ed blames everyone but Daisy for his antisocial nature.“I thought about Daisy, saw her standing there with her hand over her heart, surprised to see me. I thought about how she always called me Ed Lewis, the way she stamped her foot when she was angry. How when we were growing up, she was the only one who really spoke to me, the only one who really noticed me.”
Book Club Bonus: Ask the group to discuss what factors, either environmental or genetic, may have contributed to Ed developing a psychopathic personality.
If you enjoyed Neely's article, subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter to receive more suggestions from Neely, other fresh ideas for discussion and much more!
Back to Ladies' Home Journal index.