This book has been a special favorite of mine since one of my best friends pressed it into my hands in 5th grade. At the tender age of 10 fiction suddenly posed me with the question: “What if you could live forever?” There is such a unique relationship with stories you loved specifically as a child. I’m so glad I read this at the age of 11 when the magic of the book couldn’t escape me. But we certainly hope to hear all of manner of opinions about this book!
We’re also so excited to be giving away a beautiful hardcover of the special anniversary edition, which includes a foreward by Gregory Maguire. Did you know that this book has never been out of print in all that time? Let’s discuss why this story has such lasting appeal.
Kim: I remember so clearly my best friend pressing this one into my hands in 5th grade and promising me I would love it. And she was right! I’ve always loved paranormal elements. Immortal/human relationships, and their dilemmas, were forever a favorite-even as a kid! I hadn’t re-read this since middle school age, but I remember it being one of the first stories that ever truly hurt my heart.
Wendy: I loved this as a kid, but it’s been years since I read it! I remembered the basic plot, but that was it.
Layla: Definitely not my first time reading Tuck Everlasting. Can I say that the book felt much, much scarier to me now than it did when I was a kid?
Wendy: Definitely more frightening to read as an adult. Kidnapping and aggravated assault, and aiding and abetting a murderer, hah. But even more than that, the sensation of being the verge of discovering all the secrets of the universe, somehow. I love books like this that take small moments in time but make them feel so huge. Winnie’s world is so small until she meets the Tucks, and then she has to think about things she’s never considered before
Layla: Yep, all of those parts. That scene where she’s spending the night at the Tucks! Terrifying. As a child, I felt that this was a marvelous adventure (you get picked up in the woods and make friends, HOW GREAT) but as an adult, this sounds like the worst.
Kim: Yes, I was so surprised at the heavy/dark elements. I can mostly only recall having moon eyes for Winnie and Jesse. It’s funny how my young mind just zoomed right in on what was interesting to me (doomed love-oh no!). I hadn’t realized that it only takes place over the span of a few days either. The story felt so large to me as a kid. And to be fair it does encompass rather large themes.
Wendy: I didn’t remember that this all happened so quickly. Life changed for Winnie in just a handful of days.
Layla: Same. I thought she was there longer, and that also Mrs. Tuck’s rescue was more drawn out? But I think part of it is just that her world shifts so completely (she finds a new family, Jesse pays attention to her – she goes from watching the world develop around her to being involved in an actual adventure).
Kim: I think we can all agree that Winnie handles her world shifting so rapidly around much better than any of of us would!
Wendy: This book creates such a beautiful sense of “place of out time.” I especially like that it’s set during the summer, because when you’re a child, those long, lazy months feel so timeless, and so many of your best memories and most important discoveries happen when you’re in your own backyard.
Kim: I always loved that beautiful opening line about the Ferris wheel. It puts you right into that sense of stillness that the hottest days of the year bring. When a book can immediately transport the reader into the mood and setting it’s a magical experience.
Wendy: Yes! I’d forgotten how beautiful the prose is. What do you think of the vagueness of details in regards to the man in the yellow suit, what the Tucks are up to in the time they’re gone, what happens to Winnie, etc? I’m wondering how adults new to this book will react to this, but I very much like the choices the author made overall. They contribute to the fable-like feel of the story. Not that I don’t pine for a tiny bit more detail as to what happens to them all, of course! But I that it’s often the books that leave you yearning that have the most impact.
Kim: I like the vagueness. I think it captures Winnie’s uncertainty/confusion in a way that helps put the reader in her shoes. There’s also a fear in the unknown and I think it can leave readers to imagine the worst; to paint in the details of this sinister person.
I also feel like there’s a sense of dread in not knowing what Tucks have been up to. Because you know what I imagine they’ve been up to? Much of the same. And that’s horrifying. It would be awful to be stuck in immortality when you don’t want it. And depending which time you were frozen at there would also be varying degrees of awfulness. It wouldn’t be great to be stuck at 17. It would not be even a little bit favorable to live eternally as an older person with the all the aches and pains and difficulties. This could very easily be twisted into a horror story!
Wendy: Hah, that would be hilarious. It sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, if SNL ever did anything kidlit-based.
Layla: I would also like some more details on this front. (What have they been doing? Much of the same, sure, but the world has been changing around them like a mofo! Industrial revolution! Suffragettes! Scopes Monkey Trial! the Jazz Age! Civil Rights Movement! I want to see the Tucks watch all of these things. I like the choices the author made – and maybe there’s a sense that when you live forever, you stop being interested in things because everything passes with time – but I can’t help but be curious.)
Wendy: It’s true, those are some fascinating times in history. I wondered what the Tucks had been up to as well, but I think I’m okay with knowing. Because Winnie doesn’t really know, and we only see what she and the townfolk occasionally see of them over all those years. I am curious why it took them so long to come back, though. Wouldn’t Jesse have wanted to come back sooner? The book alluded to his having guessed that she didn’t drink the water, but it was AGES before they got back.
Layla: As you know, I am curious about how technology (among other things) changes their lives. Is it easier to get lost in the world? Do they reunite more frequently? How does this matter? And yes, you’d think they would have wanted to check on Winnie sooner – what if she’s done it and she’s been seventeen for YEARS and didn’t know how to find them? Man, I’d be pissed.
Layla: How long did it take you guys to figure out when the book was set? I had totally forgotten this, btw, and was like, wait a minute, this isn’t like the 1960s, or whenever I assumed it was set. (How did I forget this? Who knows!) But in some ways, I think that response is the result of some of the things you’re pointing out, Wendy – the fable-like feel of the story (although we are told where / when Winnie is).
Kim: I feel like I always knew it took place in the late 19th century? It’s very likely my friend explained this to me after I pestered her with my questions. :p
Wendy: The moment when she pours the little bottle of water on the toad’s head, I was all Nooooooo, what are you doing? At least wait until you’re older to decide this!
Kim: It’s a wrenching moment but I loved it for showing Winnie’s innate kindness and heart. She cared so much about that toad! It’s very touching. Plus, she figured she could always go back to the spring when the time came.
Wendy: I also love that the Tucks see the toad at the end when they come back to Treegap, never realizing it was the one she bestowed that gift on.
Kim: I’m glad I didn’t realize as a child how creepy it was that this whole story took place over a few days and that it’s preposterous to ask anyone to spend eternity with you after so short a time. I’m glad I could just enjoy the magic
Wendy: Yes, I think you’d have to be more careful with that if this book were written now. It wasn’t meant to be that she’d join them, but young Wendy’s heart and my (mostly) grown-up heart still wished for the happy ending. I mean, obviously she got her happy ending, but poor Jesse does not.
Have you guys seen the 2002 movie adaptation, by the way? I’ve only seen it once but I really liked it, it stars Rory Gilmore! I want to see it again after this. She’s aged up to match Jesse’s age in the film, which is understandable. And agreeable.
Kim: I loved the movie! I only saw it the once when it came out (I was in high school). But I surely did appreciate the aging up of Winnie into a proper love story. My heart definitely gave a ghost pang of hurt at the ending.
Layla: Yes, age Winnie and my feelings of discomfort are lessened. Which means this is definitely worth a watch for me! I never saw it.
Kim: Which character is your favorite? I love Tuck for his kindness and concern. Let’s be honest. I’ll have a soft spot for anyone with a Matthew Cuthbert vibe. And I love Winnie for her curiosity, her openness, bravery, and heart. As a kid I was just all about the “love story,” of course.
Wendy: He does have a Matthew Cuthbert vibe! I love everyone in it, except for the man in the yellow suit, obviously. Though as child I certainly thought Jesse was a dashing figure, I think I read this at the age when I was just beginning to have good friends who were boys, so that was intriguing to me. Adventures with boys are very different from adventures with girls, even if you’re doing the exact same activity.
Layla: Mrs. Tuck and her music box! I kind of wanted to ask again about the love story. Obvs, as a child, I made googly eyes at the text and thought that Winnie + Jesse was super romantic. (He meets her and then wants to be with her for-ev-er, which is the kind of healthy relationship I admired as a child.) However, as an adult, I was super weirded out by their relationship (such as it is). Winnie is what, ten? Jesse is seventeen but has also been living for like a hundred years and thus is way older than seventeen. I mean, is it just that she’s the first person they’ve been able to trust with their secret and he doesn’t want to be alone forever? Or is it like … real feelings? I don’t know that I’m happy with it in any case. I was a little creeped out by the “hey, a ten year-old girl! future bride?”
Wendy: I had a moment of pause when he said that, because the gap between 10 and 17 is so very large. But at least he was somewhat respectful in considering her feelings a bit? Obviously not enough, given that he’s actually like 100 years old and he’s dealing with a child. This felt so much like a fairy story/fantasy that when I read it as a child that didn’t faze me–it seemed terribly romantic that this boy would declare he would come back for her and all that. But certainly I would be more comfortable with it if Winnie was older. Say…sixteen. At least fifteen. I would expect that a book that is written now to take that into account.
If you could live forever what would you do?
Wendy: If I could live forever, I would:
— read all the books
— travel the world and immerse myself in other ways of living
— volunteer more
— do all the things I am too cautious to do as a puny mortal now. (I’m assuming I also get the Tucks’ regenerative powers.)
Kim: If I could live forever, I would:
— only accept if a beautiful vampire lover had appeared to sweep me away
— become a paleontologist (I am the kind of vampire that can live in sunlight,okay?)
— ultimately use the immortality for all the good I could possible fulfill. I can’t help it. I’m a Hufflepuff.
Layla: If I could live forever, I would:
— panic like a mofo, but then:
— read all of the books
— learn all of the languages I want to learn
— learn how to do other things better and also new things (playing the piano! rock-climbing!)
— figure out how to use my immortality for more learning. (i.e., can I dive to the bottom of the ocean and just like … hang out and watch things? And not have to worry about breathing or anything?)
— become a bodyguard, maybe? I bet I would be awesome at it if I were immortal.
— hopefully find a consenting adult who was willing to become immortal / already immortal, because I would be lonely as hell.
Wendy: 4 lovely stars. I didn’t cry this time, but I appreciate it on a deeper level than I could have as a child. I’ve now learned sadness and regret and disappointment in a way I didn’t know then, and it makes me ache even more for the Tucks. I’m glad Winnie got to live her long, happy life, though. I’m sure that wherever he is, Jesse is glad of it, too.
Layla: 3.5 stars. It’s a good book! And a great book to have a discussion about. But in some ways, it didn’t move me as it did when I was a child.
Kim: 4 stars. I will always remember this book as creating a significant pang in my heart. It was, and will always be, so influential. My heart grieves at Miles and the family he’s lost. Really, at everything that the family has lost. But it all goes to underscore just how wrong it can be.
Win a 40th Anniversary Hardback Edition of Tuck Everlasting!
We have a gorgeous 40th Anniversary edition of the book to give away to one of our fortunate readers!
All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you’re specifically excited about reading this book.
Open to residents of the US and Canada aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!
A review copy was provided by the Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Photograph by Wendy Darling.
We’re switching gears for February as we turn to the delightful (and sometimes scary–it’s all relative!) story of a family of mice whose home is threatened. The wonderful children’s film The Secret of Nimh is also a wonderful book, and we hope you’ll join us as we visit with some very brave little souls who are sure to touch your hearts.
Title: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Discussion Date: Friday, February 27th
Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, is faced with a terrible problem. She must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma. And Mrs. Frisby in turn renders them a great service.
This title should be easily available in libraries, and it’s also $6 on Amazon for the paperback. It’s also available on audio, although surprisingly, it doesn’t look like it’s available on Kindle.
–If you’d like to get a head start on March’s book, we will be reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is a special favorite of all three of us, so PREPARE FOR CAPSLOCK OF EXCITEMENT during our discussion!
It’s also time to reset your counters for a new challenge! Grab the 2015 Classics Challenge button on the sidebar and join us for another year of discovering/revisiting old favorites. We’re keeping the same general guidelines as last year:
— read and review at least 8 classic middle grade or young adult books
— link to The Midnight Garden’s classics challenge and post the button on your blog and/or review.
Everyone who completes the challenge will be entered to win a special prize at the end of the year, and we’ll have fun stuff throughout as well.
Thank you to everyone who has participated in any of our previous discussions, and especially to those faithful readers who managed to complete their 2014 goal. What books would you like to see us read in the future? Any suggestions for how we do this/communicate with you? Let us know below!
So, would you want to live forever? And why? What would pain you to give up? What could you give up easily? Tell us below!