Originally published on June 16, 2012.
In this story, 11-year-old Winnie Foster happens upon a
17-year-old stranger (Jesse Tuck) in the woods outside her house. She sees him
drinking from an underground stream and says she wants a drink too. To her
surprise, he reacts with extreme concern, telling her never to touch the water.
She asks why, and before she knows it, Jesse's mother and brother have abducted
her, running her away on their horse, promising to tell her the whole story as
soon as they reach somewhere safe. The story that they tell is even stranger
than their behavior: Over 80 years ago, they passed through those woods and
drank from that stream. Since then, none of them have aged, and no matter what
horrible accidents befall them, they cannot be killed or even injured. They
take Winnie to their house and explain to her why being immortal isn't all it's
cracked up to be--in fact, it's an aberration of the natural course of things.
And this is why no one else must ever know the secret of the stream or drink
from its waters.
In the one day that she spends with them, sheltered
little Winnie comes to love the entire Tuck family. In spite of their
immortality, they live simply, and in spite of the wisdom of the ages, they are
essentially innocent. When Winnie is returned to her own family, she has a
choice to make--should she drink from the spring and live forever (perhaps with
the Tucks?), or should she keep their secret and live out her natural life
Even though it's a little on the old side (published in 1975,
and set about 80 years before that) I think this would be a great book for
classroom discussion in middle school. It's a simple story, not hard to read,
and raises some very interesting questions. If you had the chance to live
forever, would you take it? And if you had forever ahead of you, how would you
live? Mr. and Mrs. Tuck have a different answer to this than either of their
sons. And does morality somehow change when you have forever to deal with the
consequences of your actions?
I'm sure that I would have loved this book
if I had read it when I was in, say, 6th grade myself. I'd definitely recommend
it to a student of approximately that age. But while I can reread and still
adore a lot of the books I first read in that era of my life (The Westing
Game, or Lloyd Alexander's "Prydain" series, or anything by Madeline
L'Engle), this one wasn't all that captivating as adult. Maybe I'd feel
differently if I'd read it back then and reading it now felt like returning to a
comfortable old friend, but as it is, I mostly just felt "meh" about the reading
of this book. Nothing too captivating for an adult first-time reader, but
nothing to dislike either. So if you're an adult and have never read Tuck
Everlasting before, I'll sadly report that it's probably too late for you
to get huge enjoyment out of this book. If you have a middle schooler in your
life, though, definitely put this book in their hands, and enjoy the
contemplations and conversations that will follow!