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Time drags by for Winnie Foster, an eleven-year-old girl who lives in a house bordering the woods owned by her family. Winnie spends her summer days under the watchful eye of her grandmother. Most of the time it's too hot to be out in the sun, and when Winnie does actually venture outside, she never goes beyond the fence of the yard. But one morning she sneaks away into the woods and there she sees a young man drinking from a mysterious spring of water he uncovers at the base of tree. The young man, Jesse Tuck, discovers Winnie watching him. So he kidnaps her.
Actually, the entire Tuck family — Mae and Pa and Jesse's brother Miles — kidnap Winnie. They have to keep the spring that Winnie has seen a secret, because the strange water there makes anyone who drinks from it live forever. Long ago the Tucks unknowingly drank from the spring, and now the four of them are over 500 years old. They have come to learn that immortality is not a blessing but a curse. Winnie is won over by the kind family. But she's not the only one who knows their secret. A man wanting to buy the well and make it famous has been watching the Tucks all along, and the only way to stop him is to take away the life he so wants to make last forever. Soon, Winnie must help her new friends escape from the police; she must break every rule that she knows, to insure that the most important rule in life — death — is not broken by everyone else.
Natalie Babbit's celebrated story is both magical in its fantasy and powerful in its themes of time and life. Her vivid writing makes the landscape of the woods and countryside as easy to imagine as the characters who inhabit it. History passes the Tuck family by; they are doomed to live forever. But though they live outside the rules of time, they never live beyond the rules of human compassion and feeling.