Study Guide

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Abandonment

By Carrie Ryan

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I have been alternating between hope that my mother turns quickly and dread that she will turn too quickly and I will have lost her forever. (2.14)

Kind of like the feeling on the first day of school—hope that the school year will be fantastic and dread that the summer will be lost forever. Except, you know, a lot more serious and depressing.

My brother doesn't visit and I hear no news of him from the Sisters. I wonder if he thinks of me. I want to be angry at him, to revel in any emotion other than shock and pain, but I understand that this is the way he grieves. (3.18)

Mary and Jed just lost their mom, and it can pretty tough to see past your own hurt in a time like this. It's tricky, though, because while Mary understands her brother well enough to know that this is how he grieves, she also really wishes they could come together in their loss.

I want to yell at Jed that I hurt too and that I am sorry and that I need him. But then I realize that he has his new family to mourn with. That somehow I'm no longer enough to comfort him. I'm only a reminder of our parents' deaths. I flex my fingers against the door, my nails digging into the wood, realizing just how fully alone I am. (3.51)

No longer enough to comfort him, eh? As his little sister, we wonder if Mary was ever enough to comfort him on her own. Usually it's the job of the older sibling to comfort the younger one, right? Leaving Mary alone at the moment she needs him most seems awful cruel of Jed when we think of things this way.

I know I should be praying and that the Sisters believe fervently that prayer is the only thing that will save him, but I cannot do it.

I cannot entrust my friend's life to something that I am so unsure of and that I am still so angry with for taking my family and leaving me here in this world. (5.28-29)

We can't blame Mary for this one. In times of intense suffering, people tend to turn toward God or away from him. Not convinced? Check out Night by Elie Wiesel and then take a peek at The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. We rest our case.

Watching his reaction to her makes me ache so hard I can barely stand to watch. It is the same feeling as when I stood before my brother and he told me I had to go to the Sisterhood because no one had spoken for me. The same hollowness tunneling out from the center of my self. (6.7)

Travis responds to Cass here by burrowing into her hand, though later on he shudders to think of his beloved. That seems kind of whack. How does he really feel about Cass, anyway?

I swallow rapidly, trying to ease the burning in my throat. Jed was here that night. Was here just a few days ago. So near and yet he didn't come to see me. Didn't bother to tell me his wife was pregnant again. (6.17)

Lame-o ka-blame-o. Jed's being a real peach about this whole mess. Dude definitely ain't gonna win any Brother of the Year awards.

Before I may have had a crush on Travis, but it was a simple childish longing that could have easily been erased by the contentment of being asked to marry Harry.

But all that has changed now. Both Mother and Father are Unconsecrated, Travis is broken, Cass is absent, Jed no longer cares enough to even speak to me when he comes to the Cathedral for worship. (9.25-26)

Whatcha think? Could Mary really have been content with Harry? And if so, why did all the hoopla change that? Seems like Mary would be desperate for security after all her loss.

"I was so certain that he loved me." Her gaze lands on me, narrow and sharp. "But then he asked for you instead." (9.38)

Ouch—looks like Mary ain't the only one who feels the sting of abandonment. Cass has her own Bummer Bee flying around her head, and if you take a look at the other characters, each one of them has serious loss issues too.

Finally, I make my own decision: I will give them the night to see if the village repels the breach. But then I will go down this path. Alone if I have to. (16.26)

After being abandoned by everyone she loves, it's no wonder Mary wants to abandon her posse. Plus, there's that pesky curiosity she can't shrug off.

Suddenly, I feel a profound need to hurt Travis as he stands with his arm around Cass, her fingers possessive around his wrist like a Binding rope. For making me want him so fiercely and for not coming to claim me before my last night with Harry. For not coming before everything grew so complicated and ugly. (19.8)

Let's say the Travster did come for Mary. How would that have changed the gang's social dynamic? Would Mary have given up the ocean for him if he'd given up tradition for her?

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