Title: Whichwood (Furthermore #2)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: November 14th, 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
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.
It seems to me that Tahereh Mafi could write about pretty much anything and I would read it no matter what, and Whichwood is no exception. After the wonderful, magical adventure that is Furthermore, I was ready to delve back into the lush, imaginative world that Mafi created.
The story of a body-washer, or a mordeshoor, is something I have never read before or even thought about, to be honest. Especially when said mordeshoor is a 13-year-old girl. But despite the odd, if not disturbing aspect of the job, Tahereh Mafi managed to weave such a fascinating tale that brings out the beauty of it.
Right off the bat, I could feel a kinship with the main character, Laylee, and despite being 13 years old, I could see parts of myself in her character. I knew then that I would be in for an emotional roller coaster with this book, and I was right. Laylee is prickly, detached and packaged with a shell made of steel, all in the effort of protecting herself from the harshness of her life. I’ve always thought that Mafi’s writing style is beautifully emotive, but in Whichwood, I feel that it really conveyed everything that Laylee is feeling, from pain and loneliness to happiness and kinship, it was an absolute joy to read.
We are reunited with Alice and Oliver from Furthermore and also introduced to new characters like Benyamin and Haftpa, but I won’t say more about them because of spoilers 🙂 . But I will say that there isn’t a single character I disliked in this book. Each of the characters in Whichwood is remarkably unique and they have their own thoughts and sets of principles that make the story richer and more complex. Despite being the same age, Alice and Laylee are so different from each other but at the same time quite similar, which makes their relationship more fascinating.
Other than the food, I can say for certain that I know next to nothing about Persian mythology or culture (something I need to fix ASAP), but I think Whichwood does an excellent job of introducing the elements of Persian heritage. It was definitely interesting to read about and made me want to learn more.
Just like Furthermore, Whichwood turned out to be a darker story than I was expecting. And this is after knowing about the body-washing part. I won’t go into details because you just have to read it for yourself, but there were scenes that just got me slack-jawed and wide-eyed and I just had to make sure I was reading a middle-grade book.
Speaking of middle-grade books, I don’t personally know many 8 to 12-year-olds (who are the core audience of middle-grade books) who have to vocabulary to read this book. I feel that parts of the book, as well as the writing style, are complex and may not be something an 8-year-old would read. However, I do think the message in the story is not so subtly integrated, which I think is great for the target demographic so they don’t have to try so hard to decrypt what the story is trying to tell them. But at the same time, I do think that the way it’s written gives it more impact and if you’re anything like me, you’d probably like it. It’s not like it gives you great revelation, in fact, it’s probably something you’d already know, but I think sometimes people need a reminder.
One thing I’ve noticed in all Tahereh Mafi’s books is that the endings always feel very abrupt or rushed. Whichwood tells an amazing story from the beginning but towards the end, I expected something more? Everything was resolved nicely and Laylee’s story is over, but I can’t help but feel there has to be more to it. But other than that, I absolutely loved this story and I can see myself reaching for it and rereading in the future.
I think that Whichwood is an amazing book with a captivating story, unforgettable characters and a writing style that just blows me away. I really recommend it and I hope you will love it as much as I do!
“A person doesn’t need legs to be strong. I’ve got enough heart for ten legs, and that’ll carry me farther than these limbs ever did.”
― Tahereh Mafi,