My hunger for vampire stories led me to The Forest of Hands and Teeth (I love the title, it sounds so creepy!). I dug it out from between the other books in the bookstore and took it home.
The blurb on the back cover made me think of this book as a cross between M.Night Shyamalan’s “The Village” and Justin Cronin’s “The Passage” and while I enjoyed the former better I was also curious to see what this book had to offer.
Mary is a young girl who grew up in an isolated village in The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The village is believed to be the last human surviving enclave and is run by The Sisterhood and protected by The Guardians. In her world, rules are important and everyone obeys them. Under the guidance of The Sisterhood, the village is kept safe from the Unconsecrated, living beings that were humans once but got bitten and then turned, becoming creatures with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. Now they prowl the fences around the village, their moans of agony a perpetual sound in the background.
In a world under the constant threat of extinction, finding a mate and starting a family is seen as one of the steps a girl must take. Love is not important, it is all about commitment. But Mary’s inquisitive mind does not accept the rules easily. She remembers the stories her mother used to tell, stories of a world before The Return, of a vast stretch of salty water as wide and big as the eyes could see: the ocean. Could those stories be true, does the ocean really exist and if it does, why didn’t anybody try to go and find it? Is there life outside the village or are they really the last surviving people on earth?
The longing to see if her mother’s stories were true start to take over Mary’s thoughts and soon she must make a choice: to live the life that was expected of her, marry, have children and spend the rest of her days in the small community, or leave the village and take the risky journey that may claim her life. How to make a decision between a love and a dream, knowing that having both is not an option? What to do when the decision you know you must make will separate you from the ones you love? And how to leave when just outside the gates the Unconsecrated are waiting, sniffing for the scent of human flesh, always hungry, always ready to rip apart the people they catch? And probably the most haunting question of all is how to silence your dreams when all you want to do is see them turn into reality? These are not easy questions to answer and for a moment it seems as if Mary can have it all: escaping from the village with the one she loves, driven by the desire of seeing what’s behind the fences. But there’s a price to be paid and the man Mary loves is willing to pay it: to sacrifice himself so that she may follow her dreams, knowing that she will never be happy otherwise, that their love will not be enough to quench the fire of curiosity burning in her soul.
The end threw me off a bit. I imagined something else for Mary, I kind of hoped she would come back and wipe the Unconsecrated from the face of the earth. But maybe that will come in the last book of the trilogy. When I bought this book I had no idea it was only the first in a series of three and I’m not sure if I will look for the other two (it’s a good thing this wasn’t book number 2).
This book was like a thriller movie, lots of action, daring characters and every now and then a turn of events that made me gasp (even though some were a bit predictable) and rush on to the next page to see what happens next, hoping that the people will make it out alive. I liked Mary’s fierceness, her determination and her courage, but most of all I liked her for daring to follow her dream.
*read in August 2011