For some reason; while I read voraciously as a young kid I never got around to reading this book. Which is odd because it was one of the most popular books of my time; I remember seeing all of my friends all reading it; but for some reason either the timing wasn’t right, it was always checked out from the library, and other such instances.
But I finally got it from the library last week and read it in one sitting, while traveling to London to visit some very old and very dear friends of mine. So with the boat gently rocking, listening to the hum of the engines and the laugh of the baby two seats over, I cracked open this book and couldn’t put it down from the moment my eyes first landed on it’s pages.
The story starts out describing a sort of limbo; a theme that is very important to this story. There is the limbo of the change between summer and fall that takes place in those two middle weeks of August (I love when I’m reading a book and the timing of my reading it coincides with the actual settings of the book! Nerd out!) in which nothing seems to happen and everyone is waiting for something. And then of course there’s the limbo of the woods between where the cows walk, the house that you want to throw rocks at, and the town. For some reason, no one ever enters the woods and no one strays from the path the cows have created that follows the edge of these mysterious trees so closely. The path that people walk on is a limbo state from which the story starts; Winnie, the main character, goes out of her yard and crosses the road into the mysterious woods. Of course, then she sees Jesse Tuck drinking from the mysterious spring, and meets the rest of the Tucks; all of whom are stuck in the Limbo between living and dying; because they cannot die, they cannot really experience life as they want to.
As far as being an enchanting and adventurous story; this short book has got it all. And in terms of a question that many of us have wondered about at one time or another, what would you do, if you were handed a bottle of water that could grant eternal life? The story tells of how Winnie poured her bottle over the toad, but she had been to the spring before. She could’ve gotten water there at any time. And at the end of the story, we found out that obviously, she never went back. But I’m sure that it was a decision that she thought about hard, and often.
Like the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, the biggest decision is not how to get out of the loop, but what to do with eternity. What will you fill your time with, when you are going to live for forever? How will you make the minutes pass by? Bill Murray’s character is first consumed with the immediate; trying to get out of the town before the storm, bedding women, trying to get Rita to fall in love with him in a single day etc. But gradually he moves towards pursuits that are more long-lasting, such as learning to play the piano, giving a hearty last meal to the homeless man, and learning to be a better person, regardless of the continuity of the day. In this way, every member of the Tuck family dealt with it in different ways; the two younger ones wandering and exploring the world aimlessly, albeit lonesome, and then Angus and Mae just enjoying each other’s company and creating things to sell. But they had come to realize that no matter what they did; they were trapped. That immortality does not equal omnipotence, a blinding idea for many.
While reading the book; and falling in love with all the characters really quickly; especially Jesse. A seventeen year old who can’t grow up, who is all alone in the world. (Damn you for stealing this idea and ruining it, Stephanie Meyers) and I wanted Winnie to drink the water and stay with Jesse forever. And yet, at the end when we find out she hasn’t, I wasn’t sad either. And it made me think; if I were in her place, would I have drank the water? Sure I could do a lot of things, but my lack of aging would prevent me from living with normal people; I wouldn’t be able to do absolutely everything that I wanted to, I’m sure. My quality of life would go down. But then again, I wouldn’t worry about not getting everything done that I want to do, like I do now.
So I set the question before you; would you drink the water? Why or why not?