Read-a-long with Jess and Khanh!
LOL, well, it was anyway. ;)
There was a lot that was beautiful about The Forest of Hands and Teeth
. The narration, for one, had a subtle and simple way of being poetic and pragmatic at the same time. There was a lot of beauty in the narrator's (Mary) thoughts. I often found myself thinking, "That was a gorgeous way of thinking," or "That's a very quotable line." I enjoyed reading about Mary coming into herself in this poetic atmosphere. It was an interesting contrast -- the poetic nature of the narration but the grim reality of the post-apocalyptic world. And I think that, for the most part, this contrast worked.
However, for all of its beauty and contemplation, the prose had one fatal flaw: it was too vague. There is so much ambiguity in the narration that it eventually becomes exhausting. It's difficult to follow a narrator like that, it's hard to get a grasp on her personality, her character, her world. I could never quite see the world that Mary lived in clearly because it felt like there was a haze over my eyes the entire time I was reading this book. It was like reading with gauze wrapped around my head -- I could make out shapes and movements, but never get the full picture.
On the one hand, this hazy narration suited Mary because she is crazy
. I can't think of any way to describe her other than that. At first, I thought she was just whiny and selfish, but as time wore on, I realized her selfishness ran deeper than that. It was an insanity. Nothing was good enough for her; she would get what she wanted only to desire more. It was fantastic to read through the eyes of a girl who is so set on what she wants that she will sacrifice anything -- and anyone
-- to get it. I loved reading about a character who didn't realize how deep her selfishness ran, who wasn't aware that she was on the very thin line between sanity and insanity and I think that's what saved this novel for me.
Because, as I said before, it is much too vague. There are scenarios that happen and are never explained. I understand that some questions should be left unanswered in novels, but this one simply had too many. There was no wrap-up. When the novel ended, I found myself thinking: "Wait... that's it?" For example, why did the Sisterhood turn Gabrielle into an Unconsecrated? and did the Sisterhood cause the breach?, or did Mary ever have sex with Harry or Travis? (really, this question drove me crazy because I feel like that would be something important in a young girl's life, no matter what era she lives in. It would not be something that would simply be glazed over.) Also, were Harry and Cas ever saved at the end? Actually, maybe that last one could stay unanswered, but in a world where there was way too much left unanswered it just felt like another what-if in a sea of endless questions.
The pivotal questions were never answered. The important aspects never discussed and that is where this book failed me.
I really argued with myself over whether or not to give this two or three stars. When I realized that I would probably read the next book, I decided on three. For all of its flaws, this book kept me engaged and interested. I'm clearly interested enough to invest time in the second, so on a lot of levels this book succeeded, too.
Edit: I can't stop thinking about this book, about the way society breaks down and the way people themselves break down when faced with a crisis. I can't stop thinking about Mary and her total insanity and how it resonated with me for some reason. Because this book continues to be in my head and won't leave me alone, it deserves a four-star rating. Clearly, the author was able to portray herself well and it has stuck with me.