Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mother Daughter Book Group/Book Review -- Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s been two months since I wrote about our Mother Daughter book group – last month M/D book group conflicted with my daughter’s year end dance recital, so we couldn’t attend. Daisy daughter read, Ivy and Bean, by Annie Barrows, but I didn’t make the attempt. This month, the choice was Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – and the opposite occurred – I finished it, but Daisy daughter didn’t. And I’m almost glad that was the result.

I had serious issues with this book. I know this is supposed to be a “classic” work of juvenile literature, but at the end I was left scratching my head and asking, “why?”

Ten year old Winnie Foster is an overprotected child ready to explore the nearby forest. On the day she makes her escape, she discovers Jesse Tuck relaxing by a nearby spring, only to wonder why he is being so secretive about it. Thus begins a tale of an eternal spring, a kidnapping by the Tuck family, a blackmail by a stranger in a yellow suit, a murder and a jail break, all wrapped up in a cloud of immortality.

One reviewer said, “Babbitt asks profound questions about the meaning of life and death, and leaves the reader with a greater appreciation for the perfect cycle of nature. Intense and powerful, exciting and poignant, Tuck Everlasting will last forever--in the reader's imagination.” None of that was obvious to me. What this reader’s imagination was left wondering was why a writer would craft a kidnapping where the 10 year old LIKED being kidnapped and was HAPPY with her new found kidnappers. This message really disturbed me. There is nothing to like or be happy about being kidnapped. Period. It is evil and criminal. I suppose there is the whole argument out there for children who are being abused by parents being rescued – but that isn’t the case here. Winnie is in a perfectly loving family and is kidnapped because she has knowledge of the “fountain of youth.”

Another issue that disturbed me was the strange man in the yellow suit that followed the Tuck’s on their escape with Winnie, blackmailed Winnie’s family for his knowledge of her whereabouts. In my opinion, evil just compounds itself with this individual’s actions. And the hole just keeps getting deeper: the blackmailer is then unintentionally killed over his actions, and ultimately, Winnie willingly lets herself become an accomplice to the crime, when she substitutes herself for the accused.

I had so many issues with the message of this book it is crazy.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, we are not meeting this month to discuss Tuck Everlasting. We have a small group to begin with – so if anyone is absent, it makes for an impossible discussion. Thus is the case this week – we have two families out of town on vacation, one with other plans, and that only leaves 2 daughters and 2 moms -- so we canceled.

I’m not sure where I missed the big picture. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone who will shed “light” on the importance of this book.

Next month: We are having a Mother/Daughter book night/movie night with the opening of Beezus and Ramona.

Hopefully, no one is kidnapped.

Book source: Public library

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jayna said...

I find this review so very interesting. I had loved this book as a youth, and it never occurred to me then that something was amiss about it. Yet now as a mother, I can see how this story isn't quite right...

Melissa said...

Well, know you're not alone! I think it would make a good horror story, actually.

mattbeatty said...

On rereading I find it extremely troubling as well. I can't believe my kids have had to have been taught this book. The prose is gorgeous, but an interesting premise and good prose does NOT make a classic. Kidnapping, Stockholm syndrome, extremely creepy age-gap attraction/falling in love (essentially pedophilia), terrible two-dimensional villain, mostly unlikeable characters. I just don't get it.

Again, I love some of the prose and it's beautiful, but there are so many better magical realism options.