This is a deliciously creepy tale about a magical cabinet full of jars of earth. Each jar belongs to a person who can live forever as long as their jar is not opened.
Some of the people who have jars are determined to make sure their jars are NEVER opened. Other people long to return to a more natural life, because as often happens in stories, eternal life isn’t as great as it sounds.
Each group wants control of the cabinet to either keep the jars sealed or open them all. To keep the jars safe there has always been a guard – the cabinet keeper. Now that the cabinet is at the center of a brewing war, that person is in terrible danger.
When the story opens, a little boy who inherited the job of cabinet keeper from his grandmother is an old man himself. He remembers VERY well the day his grandmother, who was oddly very, very young, decided she had had enough of life and opens her own jar and her earth crawls back to her body, crawls inside and returns her mortality.
”Long after, the pictures would come back to haunt him: his grandmother at the table with her bread – and everything covered with the eagth, shifting grains of earth she had poured out of the bottle of hers, the bread covered with earth, earth spilling out of the cup she drank from, earth creeping toward the corners of her lovely mouth, while he stood there and pulled on her arm and cried.” (pages 6-7)
The way the dirt acts when it comes out of the jars has a delicious creepiness to it. The dirt is relentless as it searches for its owner…like a line of scurrying spiders. The images in my head when I read this immediately made me think of the Other Mother’s hand in Coraline. Remember that? The way it scuttles across the ground? Shiver. It also reminded me of The Mostly True Story of Jack and the creepiness of how the plants move – like the vines in the maze in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Relentless nature is very scary to me..flooding water, tornadoes, scurrying bugs - that’s what this creepy earth is like.
Enter 13 year-old Maya and her little brother James. Their mother is very ill. When the cabinet chooses Maya to replace the old man as cabinet keeper, she sees a way to help her mother. Should she trade herself to save her mother’s life? Should she take the job of cabinet keeper and all of the dangers that go with it? What would you give up to save someone you love? And what if you might be saving them from one thing, only to hand them over to something altogether worse?
If you like Maya and James’ battle against the earth, try these creepy tales: