Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Nook - Tuck Everlasting

Ever notice that some books are just begging to be read at a specific time of the year?  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one that comes to mind - obviously, Winter (especially around the holidays) would be a perfect time to sit down and read that novel.  Well, Tuck Everlasting, written by Natalie Babbitt, is also a seasonal read & the time to read it is now - early August.

This is the story of Winnie Foster, a 10-year old girl who lives in a "touch-me-not" cottage on the edge of a wood.  Winnie is tired of always being told what to do and always being watched by her overbearing family, and she yearns for a little bit of freedom.  She plots to run away, but changes her mind and decides to explore the woods by her house instead, something she has never done, which surprises her when she realizes it.  She never dreams that she would meet anyone in the woods.  And she never dreams that the people she meets there would have such an amazing & unbelievable story.  For this family, the Tucks, have told her an incredible truth: they will live forever.

The plot of the story moves quickly (since it's only 139 pages long, I suppose there's not much choice) - one minute Winnie is exploring the woods, the next, she is meeting the Tucks and before she can catch up with everything, she is being whisked away on their horse to their house, miles away, so that they can all talk things over with the patriarch of the family,  Angus Tuck.  To make matters more complicated, there is a mysterious stranger, who wears a yellow suit, who seems to be following Winnie and/or the Tuck family.  When his intentions are realized, things take a turn for the worse, for all of them.

I really enjoyed this book for its quick pace, believable characters, smart dialogue and overall feeling of the scenery and time that the novel takes place.  However, the thing that had the most profound impact on me is Babbitt's beautiful, poetic descriptions.  The novel starts out with this: "the first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.  The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot."  Another great description comes when Winnie, at the Tucks' house, notices "three armchairs and an elderly rocker stood about aimlessly, like strangers at a party, ignoring each other."  The novel is full of these little gems, astute observations by the author.

The only downside to the novel, in my opinion, is the lack of information about the man in the yellow suit (specifically, lack of a name).  Perhaps it's just the "man in the yellow suit" reference that bothers reminds me too much of the "man in the yellow hat" from the Curious George books.  And the man in the yellow hat is too lovable to be a sinister bad guy!

I highly recommend reading this intriguing short novel - but do it soon because, unlike the Tuck family, early August won't be around forever.


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