Yes. Yes. Yes.

YA writer Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath is a song, an ode, a ballad.

It is written like a mother crooning a song, or a warning, or a yearning to a well loved babe.

I hesitate to tell you what its about, because laying it out in a few sentences is like trying to describe what “Ode to Joy” or Barber’s “Agnus Dei” is about. Because the book itself is written like a piece of music in terms of the rhythm of the words, the sing-songy quality of traditional oral telling of stories.

On one layer its about two kittens and a hound. On another layer its about ancient powers of nature. And on another layer about the tragedy of an abused man.

Am I waxing too poetical for you? Well, the book is pretty good. It’s YA and its written in language that is deceptively simple divided into short chapters. But it isn’t boring.

Because what The Underneath is about, really, is love. Not romantic love, but the love between mother and daughter, between brother and sister, and how that love must be acknowledged for it to sustain us.

And about the danger of perversion of that love. How when we are greedy in these primary relationships, instead of giving eachother strength, we can cause death or irrevocable transformation, or even create monsters.

And its also, at the heart of it, a story about how despite abuse and horrible circumstances, it is we who in the end decide whether to endure or to enact retribution on others around us.

About the origins of Evil.

You know that feeling you got the first time you saw Watership Down as a young child? And at the end of the movie how tinged with sadness and hope you were? Well that’s what the end of this story did for me.

So yes, Recommended. Very. Very. Recommended.

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