Friday, May 7, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Earlier tonight I finally finished reading the novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  This was certainly a book that struck me; I'm just not sure if it's positively or negatively.  For any of those that haven't read this book let me quickly fill you in.  It's a post-apocalyptic romance adventure.  It reminded me of a toned down Davinci Code meets I am Legend.  Mary and her village believe they are the last ones on earth.  They must be constantly wary of the blood-craving zombies that lie in the fenced off forest that surrounds their village.

It was certainly an interesting book, however I found my reaction to it odd.  This book was dark to say the least.  I personally love dark books and don't have an issue with addressing the emo elephant in the room.  I know there are books a lot darker than this but let me just give you my interpretation.  Within the first 3 or so chapters the main character, Mary,  is forced to watch her mother die then "return" as part of an infected living dead known as the Unconsecrated.  Since her father is too an Unconsecrated she is left an orphan with only her older brother to care for her.  Mary's brother, Jed, then decides to throw her out of the house because she did not kill their mother before she joined the zombie army surrounding their town.  Wow, talk about a bad day for Mary.  I know I was a little spoilery but trust me it's relevant to my point.

To start the book off the reader sits with Mary as she goes through a life changing reality.  I pity her.  I pity her mother.  I pity her father, and her brother, and her friends, and the entire world at this point.  As the novel progresses so does the sense of hopelessness, fear, and anguish.  I remember thinking multiple times throughout the book that if I were her I would have just let myself die.  This is of course a sentiment to Mary's determination to live.  However, as a reader, by the end I was emotionally exhausted.  As the pages kept turning I kept praying there would be some good fortune sent Mary's way.  In large part there was not.  Life is truly a bitch.  I feel I just have to ask the question: how much is too much?

Throughout the novel I sat through a lot of depressing interior monologues.  I read a lot about love that made me feel it just wasn't worth the risk.  And I said goodbye to a lot of characters that I truly didn't want to say goodbye to.  Now I believe if I read a novel and every single character comes out unscathed (in every sense of the word) the author was just being too lovey dovey to their readers.  But on the flip side, (no spoiler alert, I'm just speaking hypothetically) if only one character out of an entire cast comes out kicking is there something wrong here?  Now I understand the entire point of a book is to give the reader an emotional experience.  And don't get me wrong, I got one, but the emotion I felt when I put down that book is not one I like to feel often.

Pain is not comparable, it's a philosophical truth.  We don't live in the world where everything has a quick fix and we always feel good all of the time.  It's cathartic for us to feel sad and upset.  However the intense emotion this book gave me did not bring back pleasant memories.  This is a huge compliment to Carrie Ryan; It takes a wonderful writer to bring this upon me.  I just can't shake the thought that reading this book wasn't worth the pain.

I'm sorry to say that I don't have a definitive or specific point to my little philosophy lesson.  Maybe I would have enjoyed this book more if I was a real zombie fan (the living dead scare the bejesus out of me, and not in a fun way).  Maybe you just have to be in a certain mood to read this and I wasn't in that place.  I don't know, I just felt I needed to address it.  Have you read the book?  What'd you think?  I'm a moron or a speaker of truth?  Let me know!  Thanks for listening.  Hope you were able to get something from my babble.

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