This week I decided to read Tuck Everlasting because it’s been on my bookshelf legit since high school. I’ve always avoided it because I had a feeling it was going to make me cry hysterically and it did not disappoint. I found myself finishing it at Starbucks sobbing uncontrollably into my iced green tea. Cue the awkward glances over to me. Spoilers ahead!
We meet the Tucks who we learn drank some spring water and have been cursed to live forever. No matter what they do they cannot die. We also meet 11 year old Winnie Foster who has been feeling trapped in her stuffy home and is longing for an adventure somewhere. She keeps thinking about running away but has yet to do it.
One day this sort of creepy older man in a yellow suit comes up to Winnie playing in her yard and starts to talk to her about the woods that Winnie’s family owns. Here we have our antagonist. We learn toward the end of the book that his grandmother had a friend who was apparently married to one of the Tuck’s sons and realized something was not right when no one in the family seemed to grow older and so left him and stayed with his grandmother for awhile. Ever since he has been obsessed with this family who never grows older and who can never die and is determined to find them. As he is talking to Winnie we hear a little bit of music coming from the woods. Winnie’s grandmother always says it’s elves playing their music but we learn that it is actually Mae Tuck (the mother) playing her music box. It’s a tune that the older gentleman remembered because his grandmother’s friend’s children would sing it so much that his grandmother remembered the tune and would sing it to him. Suffice it to say that when he heard this song he knew this mysterious family must be in the woods somewhere…That summary was definitely not as succinct as I would have liked.
The next day Winnie decides to go exploring in the woods. She stumbles across a boy, Jesse Tuck, and starts to watch him. He drinks from a spring of water and then discovers Winnie. She insists upon drinking from the water because they are her woods. This is obviously the spring water that stops you from aging and dying so Jesse does not want her to drink from it without knowing that. The Tucks end up “kidnapping” Winnie so they can explain the whole situation. As they are taking her back to their cottage they pass the creepy older man from earlier who uses this to his advantage. To them, it is very important that no one knows about this water because it would end up being disastrous if people could just go on living forever. Winnie ends up really loving the Tucks and their family, particularly Jesse. Jesse is 17 and he suggests to Winnie that when she turns 17 she should drink some of the water too and then they could go on exploring the world together forever. Which sounds sort of romantic if you can get past the fact that he’s actually 104 at this point and Winnie is 11.
The creepy older man basically exploits the fact that the Tucks desperately want to find Winnie, and he tells them that he knows where she is and will go get her if they sell their woods to him. That way he will have access to the spring of water and can sell it. He goes to retrieve Winnie with the constable but things do not go great and Mae Tuck ends up shooting him and killing him. She is thrown in jail and is going to be hanged which would then reveal their secret that none of them can die. They come up with a plan to switch Mae and Winnie in the jail cell so that the Tucks can run away. When they do this Jesse gives Winnie some of the water in a little vial telling her, if she wants, to drink it when she’s 17 and to come and find them.
The Tucks get away and Winnie goes back home after being discovered in the cell. She ends up using the water on this toad who has been hanging around throughout the whole book. A dog was trying to hurt him and she puts the water on him so he’ll be safe forever thinking that there is a whole spring of water, and when she is 17 she can always go back there and drink some.
Cut to the epilogue and it is now 1950. The Tucks finally decide they can return to the town because no one will recognize them at this point. They want to see if Winnie maybe is still alive having had the water, or if she decided to live out her life normally. They go to the graveyard where they see that Winnie passed away two years prior having been a wife and mother. Ok. Now I’m crying again writing this. Mr. Tuck is proud of her. He does not see living forever as a blessing. Mae Tuck is sad for her son Jesse, but they all sort of knew long ago that she probably did not drink the water and decided to live her life the normal way.
I avoided reading this book because I knew the question of mortality or living forever would just consume me for days. I wonder what I would do if I was 11 and this happened to me. On the one hand it would be so awesome to have a life partner with just an unlimited amount of time to explore the whole world. The thought of people I love dying and not being able to see them again is always a constant worry in my head. If we could all just drink some of this water and just live together forever then we’d never have to worry about leaving each other. But, I also understand where Mr. Tuck is coming from. It’s not natural for people to live forever. It does get to a certain point where it’s not a blessing anymore but a curse. The thought that you can literally never pass on and you are doomed to walk the earth forever. No matter what happens. Even if there is a huge apocalypse and everyone is destroyed and there is no clean water or food or shelter, what would happen then? Would you just suffer and go about the earth? I guess if an extreme situation like that happened I would maybe want to have the ability to die. I think in the end, I would probably end up making the same decision as Winnie did. She was 11 when this happened and then the Tucks had to get out of town. A lot can happen in 6 years and by the time she was 17 it was already becoming a distant memory and the magic of it all was probably fading. Also, there were really no real plans made. It’s not like she could just text Jesse and be like “Oh hey, I’m 17 now so I’m gonna drink this water, just let me know where we’re gonna meet up!” I think I probably would have made the same decision…but I think I also would have been thinking about “what if” the rest of my life. I wonder if Winnie did. I would have loved to read her thought process when she turned 17.
My favorite character was probably a toss-up between Winnie and Mr. Tuck. I could just see Mr. Tuck and his world weariness of having to live forever and not wanting anyone to find out about it. He was so sweet when Winnie came to their home and was a little bit awkward trying to figure out how to act with a real child in their home after so many years.
I also really liked Winnie. I like how she decided to help the Tucks escape from jail. Even though she was 11 and didn’t know the potential consequences for herself, she very easily could have been like “Well, it’s not really my problem anymore.” and just stayed in bed that night and let them figure it out. I also liked her affinity for animals and how she helped save the toad that had been hanging around.
My favorite scene was definitely the whole epilogue and the discovery of Winnie’s grave. It was satisfying to see the Tuck’s reaction to Winnie making the choice to live a mortal life. It broke my heart so much and it was such a great ending. I sort of wish Winnie would have gone on to live forever and live with the Tucks, but I also know that probably wasn’t the best choice for her and living her life the “normal” way was what most likely made her happiest.
Would you recommend to a friend?: Yes, with a box of tissues.
Would love to get your thoughts in the comments and any suggestions for new books! Join me this week as I read The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North.