Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rereading Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (spoilers)

Tuck Everlasting
The road that led to Treegap had been trod out long before by a herd of cows who were, to say the least, relaxed. It wandered along in curves and easy angles, swayed off and up in a pleasant tangent to the top of a small hill, ambled down again between fringes of bee-hung clover, and then cut sidewise across a meadow. 

*SPOILER CONTAINING REVIEW* "Doomed to—or blessed with—eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune."

I was read this book in elementary school, and while I didn't remember much about it, I remember enjoying it. In fact, the only things I did remember were the spring, the character of Winnie Foster, and the mysterious man in the yellow suit who comes one day to the Foster's touch-me-not cottage inquiring after a certain family by the name of Tuck. He's one of the most interesting characters, because for much of the book, the reader doesn't know who he's working for, whether he's completely evil or not, and why exactly he's there. 

First published in 1975, the story of Tuck Everlasting is still a great one, and very entertaining. But I had problems with the writing. It was almost too quaint and folksy for my tastes. The writing wasn't folksy like Scumble was; it was just the language that was very country-style, and that was okay, but the writing could have been a lot better. Still, the story was very good. 

One of my favorite scenes at the beginning of the book was when Winnie first ventures out into the wood. She had intended to run away that morning, but rather than doing that, she decides to slip out for a little bit and explore the forest that belongs to her family. She's never been inside before because as Babbitt says earlier, "Nothing ever seems interesting when it belongs to you - only when it doesn't." (pg. 7). And she realizes that it's quite nice "with great surprise. For the wood was full of light, entirely different from the light she was used to. It was green and amber and alive, quivering in splotches on the padded ground, fanning into sturdy stripes between the tree trunks. There were little flowers she did not recognize, white and palest blue; and endless tangled vines; and here and there a fallen log, half rotted but soft with patches of sweet green-velvet moss. And there were creatures everywhere..." (pg. 24). That also gives you some idea of the sometimes ungrammatical writing and the poor word choice. Splotches? Really? Also in the second-to-last sentence there are lots of semi-colons in the wrong place; this is how you're supposed to use a semi-colon, not like that. 

Still, there are lessons to be learned and stories to be enjoyed from Tuck Everlasting. If one looked for a theme, it would perhaps be that everyone has to go in the end, and staying the same, on the same part of the circle of life, would be a terrible thing to do. As Carolyn S. suggests in her review on Goodreads, "all things are meant to die...and being stuck in the same spot on the wheel of life might not be as great as you'd think.' 

Tuck Everlasting is a story full of wonder and magic, but it's also a story filled with unease. Because the man with the yellow suit has arrived, and he's very, very nosy. What's worse is that when the Tucks tell their story to Winnie, he "had crept up to the bushes by the stream and heard it all, the whole fantastic story." Nor do they notice that "he was following now, beside the road far behind, his mouth, above the thin, gray beard, turned ever so slightly toward a smile." (pg. 45). More ungrammatical writing, but as I read it, I got very uneasy, and needed to read more.

The ending of Tuck Everlasting is quite sad, even though it's the best ending that could possibly be. But still, it makes my heart ache to think of Winnie Forster from the ages of ten until seventy-eight, never seeing the Tucks. 

Tuck Everlasting is a most entertaining and thought-provoking children's story. The writing was not very good, but the story itself was simply marvelous. It's great for fourth or fifth graders. 

139 pages. 

Rating: ****

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