“All things shall perish from under the sky.”
So says a line from an old song I remember singing as a child. It is true that everything in this world, breathing or not, is transient. People die, rocks corrode, plants wither… everything vanishes because that’s the way it should be. But how would you feel about an eternal life? Would you consider immortality as a gift or as a curse?
Natalie Babbit’s ground-breaking novel, Tuck Everlasting (published 1975), tackles the abovementioned questions. Ten-year-old Winifred Foster gets bored with her too-prim-and-proper life and decides to run away one day. She chances upon a teenager named Jesse Tuck drinking from a spring—perhaps the fountain of youth?—and discovers a secret that a certain family keeps for almost a century. Being the only person who learns of the secret outside the line of Tucks, Winnie must join the family in protecting the secret from someone who wants to make a fortune out of the spring. Rich and compelling, the book justifies its shortness by a good reading experience brought about by flawless prose and a series of events that will keep you turning pages.
The book, surprisingly, does not focus on romance; at its core it is about Life and Death, without touching overly serious matters that might lead to something related to the Bible and stuff. I loved its flick adaptation as a kid—yes, including the romantic bits in it. But the book has a little girl as a main protagonist and Babbit is a well-known children’s lit writer so it is quite understandable that it wouldn’t go too deep into the stuff the movie zeroed in on. The book-verse Winnie “adores” the seventeen-year-old (in actuality a 104-year-old) Jesse, and the latter offers her a chance of living forever with him by giving her a vial of water from the magic spring. With a world teeming with greed revolving around her, the choice Winnie makes at the end is a mature, touching one. She does not fear death—she fears an unlived life instead.
I can vaguely remember the scenes from the movie so I wouldn’t be pointing out more similarities and differences. All I know is that they’re both beautiful in their own unique ways. I will post something about the movie once I re-watched it sometime next week (I’m downloading it now :D).
Digressing a bit, while reading the book I have to admit that I sort of remembered Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. It starts in that scene in the woods where Winnie asks Jesse his age. His body is eternally seventeen, but he’s over a hundred and four years old. This bears a striking resemblance with Edward and Bella’s meeting in the woods, including that asking-of-age stuff. Also the thing with the Tuck family—aren’t they moving every twenty years or so because the people are wondering why they are not getting old? Same with the Cullens. As for Bella wanting to be a vampire—wanting to be immortal, technically—so she can be with Edward…didn’t Jesse try to convince Winnie to drink from the stream so they can live together forever? The choices of the female protagonists of both books differ and I have to say I prefer Winnie’s more mature choice over Bella’s.
But really, that’s not the whole point, yes? As I go read more and more books, I get to know how many derivatives the Twilight Saga has. *le sigh* Just saying.
Anyway, this review isn’t about Twilight. Tuck Everlasting is a satisfying read, it’s a modern classic you would enjoy in one sitting so go grab it now. :D