For a long time I’d seen The Forest of Hands and Teeth on the bookshelf. It’s the girl-child’s book, but that title played with my mind and finally, I decided to read it.
Young Mary lives in a village that’s allegedly the last village on earth. Her life is about fences and rules and religious customs. She dreams of something called the ocean, from a story her mother told her as a child and a picture long destroyed in a fire. Her friends think her stories are utter nonsense.
She faces a double disappointment at the start. Her mother is infected by the Unconsecrated (aka walkers or zombies) outside the gate, and the boy she likes is pledging himself to her best friend. After her mother joins the Unconsecrated, Mary’s brother abandons her and she’s forced into the sisterhood.
Mary has a curious mind and is observant and sees things she shouldn’t that push her farther from the rules and traditions that have governed their village and lives. When the fences are breached and the village is destroyed, traveling the forbidden path is the only hope for Mary and her friends.
Mary has faith in her mother’s stories and the courage to pursue her dream of seeing the ocean. That can, at times, make her seem reckless, but she is consistent to the end. There’s a love triangle. There’s loss. And there is, in the midst of so much death and destruction, hope. I was captivated by this book’s title and didn’t even read the description, so I didn’t know it was about zombies, but the author does a great job of balancing the descriptions and emphasis throughout so that the ever-present hum of the heard is its own terror, and in many ways more ominous that any occasional mention of decaying and damaged bodies that are trying to eat you. I liked that because you got just enough for your imagination to amplify potential threats, and since Mary’s people are simple and have lost a lot of knowledge and technology it fits more with their understanding of the world. They don’t know what happened or what made the Unconsecrated but they know what to fear, and that’s important. They also relied on fences and the Sisters who ruled the town and were pretty unprepared for fending off an attack. As a result, there’s a huge learning curve for the small group of 7 survivors who flee the village… and Ryan is a writer who plays fair with those realities; not everyone makes it to the end.
Tore through this book. Horror fans will find much to love here.