Tag Archives: heroism

The Forest of Hands and Teeth- How much is a dream worth?

I totally owe you guys a post about fiction. I’ve been watching Supernatural Season 6 and I’m not sure I’m ready for any kind of coherent verbalization on that yet. But I just finished reading Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth yesterday so yay! Something to blog about.

There’s no good book/bad book question here. Pretty sure this is a NYT Bestseller, has a bunch of other awards and accolades, isn’t there talk of a movie?And if you give the book enough of a chance to get into it, it’s clear the author has skills. The writing is vivid and there are passages in the book that are absolutely brilliant. Anyone read it and want to agree with me that the tension between Mary and Travis that night when the Sisters were just outside the door was just incredible?

The basic premise behind the book is that Mary lives in a village that is fenced off from the rest of the world because the rest of the world is peopled with zombies called “The Unconsecrated.” Mary’s people don’t even know if there are still other people left in the world, and, unlike Mary, very few people seem to have a burning desire to know. She’s one of those characters who is driven by a need to know–What’s beyond the fences? Are we the only ones left? Is there really such a thing as the ocean?

Though there were aspects of the book I really liked, I wasn’t the ideal reader for it. First of all, present tense. Arg! I’ve hated present tense since Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes in the 80s. Present tense narration just feels unnatural to me for storytelling. I hope the rash of it we’ve had in the last few years goes away soon. But, like I said, I’ve read a handful of them recently and I know that I can put that aside, so that wasn’t what really bothered me.

The following discussion may be somewhat spoilery. If you haven’t read it and intend to, consider skipping this post.

When I first finished the book, I thought that my dissatisfaction was because of what happened in the romance between Mary and Travis. It’s a bit of a triangle because Travis is with Mary’s best friend, Cass, and Travis’s brother, Harry, is the one who offers to court Mary. Then it seems like Harry and Cass have a thing and Mary and Travis have a thing, so why don’t they just all talk it out and couple up right, dammit?! That’s frustrating and sometimes annoying, though I have to say that finding out of Mary is ever going to get Travis was definitely something that kept me reading the story.

There’s a point in the story in which Travis seems so important to Mary. But then, when she more or less has him, she doesn’t seem to care. There’s a point in the story in which we find out that nothing, with regard to the young men and their feelings for her and Cass, is quite what Mary thought them to be. To me, this seemed like a revelation. It was a big deal. But by that point in the story, Mary was so freakin’ obsessed this the freakin’ ocean, with strangers in photographs, and with what lies beyond the world she can see–honestly, I don’t think it really penetrated.

I never felt like she felt things enough. Maybe this obsession with the ocean was a defense mechanism against all the chaos brought on by the story, but I didn’t get that. What I got was that Mary just didn’t really care about anything else except Mary and the ocean.

So I was really trying to find a way to like her. I was trying to convince myself that there was heroic nobility in this thing where she had her dream of the ocean. She believed it, no matter how impossible it seemed, and she followed it, no matter how the odds were stacked against her. And that’s really admirable, right?

But I can’t make myself see her as a hero because she I just felt like she put her own needs before everyone else’s to the point where she couldn’t really connect with them. She didn’t really care about them. It wasn’t like she was trying to achieve a dream at great personal cost, because what cost can there be when everything else doesn’t really mean anything to you?

So, like I said, it was a good book, but I wasn’t the right reader. I’m sure there will be people who read it and wonder if we even read the same book. That’s just how reading is. This was my interpretation.

So discuss. Was it just me? Anyone else feel this way about Mary’s character?


Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance