Literature: The Underneath

The Underneath is a 2008 novel by Kathi Appelt.

The book, loosely based on one of the author's own experiences, features an expecting calico cat mother who wanders off into a ramshackle house, having followed by the howls of an old, chained up hound. She befriends the dog, named Ranger, and has her kittens in the Underneath, a hideout under the porch of the house. She names them Puck and Sabine, and they are warned not to leave the Underneath.

Unfortunately, Puck does just that, and his overt curiosity provokes the attention of Gar-Face, the cruel hunter who resides in the ramshackle house.

Meanwhile, Grandmother Moccasin, a lamia, awakes after a thousand-year rest, and laments her past, involving her only daughter, Night Song, being lost to Hawk Man. All the while, her "brother", the Alligator King, is the prime target of Gar-Face

With themes of loss, love, and mystery, the book is filled with Tear Jerkers.

Tropes found in this work include:

  • Death by Newbery Medal: The kittens' mother.
  • Freudian Excuse: Not quite an excuse, but Gar-Face is somewhat sympathetic due to his face being scarred by his abusive father. Not much of one, though, because even before that he poisons and kills birds just to torment his mother.
  • Heel-Face Turn: A very heartwarming one. "Grandmother, who had spent a thousand years in a jar, had finally chosen love. This time she did what she could to help it along." She'd broken the chain tying Ranger to the tree.
  • Ironic Echo:Throughout the book, Grandmother Moccasin repeats to herself, "There is a price." In the end, she realizes the price isn't a punishment for her betrayal. The price was sorrow, sorrow for interfering with love. Before she dies, she realizes that her words are true, but not in the way she thought.
  • The Nameless: The name of the calico cat is never revealed.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The Alligator King, who manages to devour Gar-Face whole.
  • You Have Failed Me: Ranger is hated by Gar-Face for refusing to kill a bobcat because she had kittens.