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This is technically a re-read, though I last read it at least ten years ago. I recall liking it, but I think more the second time.

This children's book reminds me a lot of Charlotte's Web: the beautiful language, the close observation of a rural America long-gone, and the gentle but ruthless acceptance that life includes death. Though the setting and culture is completely different, the themes and the perfectly observed fleeting emotions and moments in time also remind me of Banana Yoshimoto.

Ten-year-old Winnie accidentally learns the secret of the traveling Tuck family, who have become immortal after drinking from a spring in the middle of the woods that her strait-laced family owns, but never ventures into. They take her away to try to persuade her not to reveal the secret of the spring, and complications begin to snowball: a mysterious man tries to take advantage of the situation, and the perpetually teenage son suggests that Winnie wait till she's his age and then drink from the spring herself.

This deceptively simple story has not a sentence wasted, weaving seemingly tossed-off metaphors and coherent patterns of imagery masquerading as local color into a completely unified whole. What seems like a pretty metaphor at the very beginning, comparing the turn of the seasons to a Ferris wheel, echoes Mr. Tuck's later point that the Tucks have stepped off the wheel of life. And a toad that Winnie keeps seeing becomes the key to the perfectly bittersweet ending.

Tuck Everlasting doesn't flinch from the sorrow of death or fail to celebrate the sweetness of life, nor does it downpedal either the benefits or the drawbacks of immortality. It's a very short book with a lot of complexity and depth - a classic for a reason.

Tuck Everlasting


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