I went into this book admittedly with a completely different idea of what it would be about, but going into it i found myself more and more intrigued with this new and creative story that had me enraptured from the very beginning curious to see how it would all tie up in the end.
The story follows the life of a young man named Connor, but his age remains unspoken. this is particularly clever because he never does anything that could hint to a particular age grouping, this disassociation means that connor’s story is one that someone of any age group can relate to and feel and empathy for. His story unlike many others doesn’t start at the beginning of all his troubles but when they seem to be coming to a climax which is rare in my experience for stories, it all begins for us when Connor sees the Yew tree in the graveyard beside his house turn into a gigantic monster who tells Connor that he is a strong force of nature and time, who only comes walking in very few points in history; and he plans to tell Connor the stories of the three times previous in which he went walking. He then demands that when he has told Connor these three tales, that Connor must reciprocate telling the monster his tale and his truth. This is where our story truly begins. It is a beautiful heartwarming and sad tale that I couldn’t put down and is a must read.
Connor’s has an extraordinary talethat expresses itself in the most ordinary of ways. He is a child with a mother who raised him on her own all the while battling cancer, his father left when he was six and now lives in America with a wife and child, and his Grandmother is someone who seems a malignant presence in his life. In his own way he is entirely fearless and yet frail, constantly seeking punishment, the reason for we don’t learn until the end. Everything about him speak of a quiet courage and strength, his life is filled with sickness and his childhood is scarce but it isn’t something he is resentful towards his mother for.
If anything in everything he does, even down to the way he interacts with the monster speaks of his love for her. When he came to the monster begging for him to use his yew tree branches to save her life, it brought me to tears. Here is a child who through his mothers illness looks into the reality of death and faces it with a strength that most adults can’t do; through this strength he is able to admit to himself his own truth, saving himself from the nightmares that threaten to destroy him. that he just wants his mother to die so that she can no longer suffer, but that he also doesn’t want her to die with every fibre of his being.
Coming to his won truth required a lot of personal growth for this character, and Ness tells it brilliantly. He uses the Monster’s tales to reflect the obstacles that are currently distracting Connor from the situation allowing him to overcome them, through living and thinking about these stories and allowing them to reflect in and defines actions. Its like watching the Hobbit and feeling a sense of accomplishment in every movie when they face an obstacle only to overcome it and bring them closer to their goal. Only in this case a part of you never wants them to reach it because you know how it will end. This is something I love about this book, its obvious from the very beginning that Connor’s mother isn’t going to make it, its shown so clearly through the actions of Connor’s family members and yet the mystery of Connor’s nightmare and Connor’s truth keeps you enraptured.
We end feeling for Connor and growing as people along with him in so many subtle ways. The stories themselves are particularly clever as they challenge modern day ideals of how stories should be structured as well as enduring ideals of right vs. wrong and good vs. bad. These tales always manage to ensnare as well as surprise, leaving me questioning my perspective on every previous argument or obstacle i’ve ever had in my life. So not only is it an emotional and beautifully written book but its the kind of book that can make someone really look at their life and find their own truth.