Summary: While coping with the reality of his mother's illness, Conor is immersed in the world of ancient lore when the yew tree outside his house 'calls' for him. The yew tree has three stories to tell Conor before Conor himself must tell the last and most difficult story of all: the truth.
Loss is a very heavy word that everyone encounters, in one form or another, throughout the journey of our lives. Conor O'Malley encounters varying degrees of loss derived from bullying and his mother's cancer diagnosis. Due to this, Conor is forced to step beyond his teenage years to be able to cope with his newfound reality.
Yet, when the stationary yew tree outside Conor's house comes alive, his sense of reality is shifted. As the two gradually become closer, the tree tells Conor three stories that, in one way or another, parallel to Conor's life.
The First Tale:
“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.” (pg. 70)
*When Conor's mother's condition worsens, he is sent to live with his grandmother who he struggles to find common ground with.
The Second Tale:
Whereby a man was punished for his selfishness.
*Reflects how Conor's own father is more focused on his new family than the hardships Conor is undergoing.
The Third Tale:
The invisible man who made people see him.
*No one really sees Conor. All the other boys at school see is weakness, his friend pity, and professors...difficult circumstances.
The Fourth Tale:
Also known as: The Truth
*The Fourth Tale is the story that called the yew to life. This story narrates the truth that Conor must come to terms with letting go of his mother. Conor feels a rooted guilt deep down inside, since he knew his mother would not recover and wishes everything would be over. However, when someone you love and care for is in pain, you no longer with for them to be in that state. Conor's innermost truth is justifiable since what he really longs for is the end of pain. Pain and loss are Conor's initiation into adulthood, and despite how much he years for his mother's recovery...it is a place no one comes back from.
Contrary to what Conor initially thought, the yew tree has not come to heal his mother or punish Conor, but rather save him from his despair. The yew tree, to an extent, is comparable to his mother. While vastly different in nature, the yew tree was a constant in Conor's life, and like his mother, the tree brought vitality and hope for more seasons. Since his mother has limited time, the yew tree starts "walking" in order to impart the wisdom of the 100 years his mother wishes she could give him.
The first tale helped Conor realize that his grandmother shared his pain. The second, that there are some people you should let go of. The third is that, despite the thought of 'invisibility', someone can see you. Then the fourth tale releases Conor from his own pain.
Life in all its high and low moments can be a monster, and when it comes calling, there is no stopping its disruptive force. The thing with monsters, as Conor learns, is that they lead us to a certain point. They provide elements of self analysis and equip us with the tools to confront our internal and external forces. Sometimes, a monster is the circumstances surrounding us, just as monsters can be self imposed and lead us to dark places. Despite the heart wrenching topic, the book is left on the wing of hope. It is a story that narrates the element of pain so well and how the love of an extraordinary person can save you.
A Monster Calls is a good friend where readers can find themselves relating to their own 'monsters.' The story equips both the protagonist and reader with enough hope and love to set you free.
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