Study Guide

Mary's Mother in The Forest of Hands and Teeth

By Carrie Ryan

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Mary's Mother

Drumroll, please… this is the lady who started it all. What? No, not the zombies—but this story and it's journey, along with all of the obsession, adventure, and desperation along the way.

How? That's easy. She (1) fell madly in love with her husband, (2) told Mary about the ocean, and (3) became a zombie. Yup—that's it. But let's take a slightly closer look, shall we?

In the village society, "Marriage is not about love […] It is about commitment and compromise and caring" (9.60). This is all well and good until your parents are crazy for each other. Growing up with her lovebird parents, Mary couldn't help but dream about a fantastic love life instead of just some village-supporting partnership. So when Harry came along to ask for her hand… bummer time. The dream of love, sparked by her parents, made Mary so desperate for real romantic love that she was willing to break all the rules to be with Travis.

As for the ocean, well, Mary's mom told her stories about it since she was just a wee one. She adores the stories, so much so that she tells them to her friends every chance she gets… and so much so that she becomes obsessed with finding the ocean her mother told her about, an obsession that fuels much of this book.

So thanks to her mom, Mary dreams of true love and the ocean, and thanks to her mom becoming a zombie, these dreams only become more important to Mary. Her mom's willingness to turn into a zombie and live amongst the zombies in hopes of finding her husband inspires Mary to quest for true love; and right before her mom turns into a zombie she whispers, "So beautiful, the ocean. […] The water, the waves, the sand, the salt! […] It consumes me" (2.28-29), which makes Mary yearn for the saltwater paradise. Her commitment to true love and the ocean are ways in which Mary keeps her mom alive for herself… and also kind of the life of the book.

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