Book Rewind · Review: Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi
Whichwood is the second novel in the Furthermore series by Tahereh Mafi and was released in November 2017. I read this book just a few months ago & now I wish I waited to read it during the spooky season. This may be a middle grade book, but its Tahereh, I will read anything she writes, and it’s so perfect for fall and/or Halloween!
Whichwood (Furthermore, #2)by Tahereh Mafi
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers
on November 14, 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
A new adventure about a girl who is fated to wash the bodies of the dead in this companion to Furthermore.
Our story begins on a frosty night…
Laylee can barely remember the happier times before her beloved mother died. Before her father, driven by grief, lost his wits (and his way). Before she was left as the sole remaining mordeshoor in the village of Whichwood, destined to spend her days washing the bodies of the dead and preparing their souls for the afterlife. It’s become easy to forget and easier still to ignore the way her hands are stiffening and turning silver, just like her hair, and her own ever-increasing loneliness and fear.
But soon, a pair of familiar strangers appears, and Laylee’s world is turned upside down as she rediscovers color, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
Whichwood is a companion book to Furthermore, but even though it is not necessary to read the first book to enjoy Whichwood, not only do I recommend it, but so does the narrator! I absolutely loved Bronson Pinchot’s telling of this tale. You may recognize that name from the wildly successful 80s TV show Perfect Strangers, yup that’s him! He also narrates Furthermore as well, so another reason to read both! He was just so pleasant to listen to and his narration was so engaging. The way he breaks the fourth wall to speak to the readers resonates way more on audio than on paper.
Let’s start by saying this is a beautiful, yet very dark, story about respecting our culture, history, and family. The value of having friends, as well as the benefits of working together. The morals that unfurl within this lyrical story are poignant and resonate for any age of reader.
Laylee is a mordeshoor, which is a magical profession that helps prepare the dead to move on to the Otherwhere. However, she inherits this gift too early, after her father goes in search of a way to deal with his grief after Laylee’s mother passes away. Now as months have passed, the magic and the exhaustion is killing her. She is also starving due to the prejudice of the town.
The townspeople are all afraid of Laylee, as they have forgotten her importance to the community. Without Laylee, the dead would never move on, and instead they would become ravenous ghosts who might just tear the skin off the living in order to cross back into the world. Yeah, I did mention the story is a pretty dark and at times deep.
Luckily for Laylee, Alice, from Ferenwood (Furthermore), is sent to Whichwood to complete her task for her Surrender (coming of age for magical folks). Alice is tasked to use her own talent to save Laylee, and even though she has no idea what to do, she starts by helping Laylee get through some of her tasks. We are taken through the intense work that has Laylee exhausted, and we also get to see the beautiful side of her magic as well.
There are some very dark and intense scenes but I think they are very important for the story. But if you are looking at this review for your younger child, make sure you are available to talk to them about themes of death, grief, and the paranormal.
Tahereh creates such an bright, yet dark world full of color and magic. Her descriptions are so vivid and I felt like I was watching a movie while listening to this perfect audiobook. Highly recommend for a spooky read this fall.