The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Here’s a book I read quite awhile ago, never had time to review, but thought you’d like.
In some post-apocalyptic future, Mary lives in a village that seems to be the only ‘safe’ place left on earth. It’s surrounded on all sides by The Forest of Hands and Teeth—that is, the Unconsecrated (zombies) are everywhere, constantly rattling against the fence, insatiably hungry for human flesh and innumerable. Part of the creepiness of this story is in just imagining that zombie sight and sound, absolutely unrelenting day and night, forever. Rotting flesh, torn limbs, and still they come. There is a village guard, to which Mary’s brother belongs, which kills the Unconsecrated that try to breech the fence, but the vastness of their numbers prevents any escape from the madness.
The village is controlled by the Sisterhood—a religious order of women, who appear to be, in a broad, uncreative stroke, much like Catholic nuns. They teach religion and are consulted in all matters concerning the survival of the village. That survival is something desperate is clear from the fact the each year, the folk have a sealing ceremony and couples are united in marriage without a thought for love. If a young woman is not asked to the “Harvest Celebration,” she may become one of the Sisterhood.
Mary has her heart set on Travis, but when he doesn’t ask her to be sealed with him, her only choice in a man is Travis’ brother Harry, who is Mary’s old friend. She decides instead to try out the Sisterhood, for which she is wholly wrong. However, in her stay at the convent compound, she learns of a horrible Sisterhood secret, of how they will manipulate people to maintain power.
Mary continues to dream of the ocean that her mother always talked about, and wonders if she could arrive there and find other living human beings and a chance at a normal life. When a strange girl steps out of the forest, Mary realizes she might have the chance.
My issues with The Forest of Hands and Teeth stem from the fact that I’m getting old and have read enough to find plot holes jarring. Mary’s situation with Travis and Harry adds a lot of drama, but a single honest conversation among the three of them could have prevented it. The idea that Mary’s mother would allow herself to be bitten by the Unconsecrated in the hope of reuniting with her disappeared husband—when she herself maintains the belief that he is ‘out there somewhere, unharmed,’—gets the story moving, but defies my ability to lapse into a suspension of disbelief. Another big event struck me as ludicrous, but I’d ruin the surprise if I told you what it was.
But I don’t think these things will matter much to you. If you want a zombie book—and this novel has gruesome descriptions of folks killing those zombies, of said zombies killing the living, of some unholy meals, and of zombies, zombies everywhere—you should read this. It’s the first in a series, so you’ll have more zombie pleasure to come!