Infused with songs of the delta blues, told through the eyes of two kittens and a battered dog, and bent with a violent owner and a vengeful moccasin, The Underneath, a youth novel by Kathy Appelt, bears little resemblance to a Norman Rockwell painting. A finalist for this year's National Book Award, The Underneath is a dark novel that intertwines three stories, each about characters battling with the same philosophical dilemma: choose love, or live in fear.
When a pregnant cat is abandoned in a ditch in southern Texas, she finds protection and love with an unlikely suitor: Ranger, a bullet-wounded hound living underneath his abusive owner's dilapidated house. The hound's owner, known as Gar Face, spends his days hunting his own Moby Dick, a 100 foot alligator lurking in a nearby swamp. Finally, there's Grandmother Moccasin, a mystical snake over 1,000 years old, who plots her revenge against those who wronged her long ago. In the swamps of the south, there is death, there is evil, and there is hope.