My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water as far as you could see and that it was always moving, rushing toward you and then away. She once showed me a picture that she said was my great-great-great-grandmother standing in the ocean as a child. It has been years since, and the picture was lost to fire long ago, but I remember it, faded and worn. A little girl surrounded by nothingness. In my mother's stories, passed down from her many-greats-grandmother, the ocean sounded like the wind through the trees and men used to ride the water. Once, when I was older and our village was suffering through a drought, I asked my mother why, if so much water existed, were there years when our own streams ran almost dry? She told me that the ocean was not for drinking--that the water was filled with salt. That is when I stopped believing her about the ocean. How could there be so much salt in the universe and how could God allow so much water to become useless? But there are times when I stand at the edge of the Forest of Hands and Teeth and look out at the wilderness that stretches on forever and wonder what it would be like if it were all water. I close my eyes and listen to the wind in the trees and imagine a world of nothing but water closing over my head. It would be a world without the Unconsecrated, a world without the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Often, my mother stands next to me holding her hand up over her eyes to block the sun and looking out past the fences and into the trees and brush, waiting to see if her husband will come home to her. She is the only one who believes that he has not turned--that he might come home the same man he was when he left. I gave up on my father months ago and buried the pain of losing him as deeply as possible so that I could continue with my daily life. Now I sometimes fear coming to the edge of the Forest and looking past the fence. I am afraid I will see him there with the others: tattered clothes, sagging skin, the horrible pleading moan and the fingers scraped raw from pulling at the metal fences. That no one has seen him gives my mother hope. At night she prays to God that he has found some sort of enclave similar to our village. That somewhere in the dense Forest he has found safety. But no one else has any hope. The Sisters tell us that ours is the only village left in the world. My brother Jed has taken to volunteering extra shifts for the Guardian patrols that monitor the fence line. I know that, like me, he thinks our father is lost to the Unconsecrated and that he hopes to find him during the patrol of the perimeter and kill him before our mother sees what her husband has become. People in our village have gone mad from seeing their loved ones as Unconsecrated. It was a woman--a mother--horrified at the sight of her son infected during a patrol, who set herself on fire and burned half of our town. That was the fire that destroyed my family's heirlooms when I was a child, that obliterated our only ties to who we were as a people before the Return, though most were so corroded by then that they left only wisps of memories. Jed and I watch our mother closely now and we never allow her to approach the fence line unaccompanied. At times Jed's wife Beth used to join us on these vigils until she was sent to bed rest with her first child. Now it is just us. And then one day Beth's brother catches up with me while I am dunking our laundry in the stream that branches off the big river. For as long as I can remember Harold has been a friend of mine, one of the few in the village my age. He trades me a handful of wildflowers for my sopping sheets and we sit and watch the water flow over the rocks as he twists the sheets in complicated patterns to dry them out. "How is your mother?" he asks me, because he is nothing if not polite. I duck my Excerpted from The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Publishers Weekly Review
|Mary's village has been trapped for generations by a very near, very visible menace: the Unconsecrated-insatiable, flesh-eating zombies that constantly tear at the village's fences. Yet the Sisterhood-a conventlike order of religious women charged to protect the village's survival-is as much responsible for the submission of Mary's village as the Unconsecrated. When the fences are breached and the village overrun, Mary and several others escape through gated paths and arrive deep into the Forest of Hands and Teeth, forced to search beyond it for their future. Mary's observant, careful narration pulls readers into a bleak but gripping story of survival and the endless capacity of humanity to persevere. That Mary maintains emotional distance serves to render her yearnings and romantic feelings even more poignant and powerful. Fresh and riveting. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved|
School Library Journal Review
|Gr 9 Up-For Mary and the rest of the villagers, the past is unknown and the present is dangerous and bleak. Villagers live in constant fear behind fences, separated from The Forest of Hands and Teeth and the clamoring Unconsecrated, zombie-like creatures that appear human, whose appetite for human flesh is insatiable. The village is governed by the mysterious, spiritual, yet somewhat sinister Sisterhood, and protected by the Guardians. When the Unconsecrated breach the fence and decimate the village, Mary and five other survivors are forced to flee through the forest, with the Unconsecrated close on their heels. They cling to each other and to Mary's belief that there is something better beyond the forest. Love, conflict, terror, life and death are all powerful elements within this well-developed, riveting sci-fi/horror story (Delacorte, 2009) by Carrie Ryan. Vane Millon's narration is flawless as the voice of Mary. Pacing is excellent and the switch between characters is seamless, with each individual given a distinct voice. Listeners will be kept on the edge of their seats right up to the ending which leaves plenty of room for a possible sequel.-Mary Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.|