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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published: June 18th 2013 by William Morrow
Format/Source: Purchased Kindle ebook
Genre: Paranormal Adventure/Thriller
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
I am a reader that reads to imagine what the world would be like if it was just a little bit different. What if I really was the first one to map out the creek at the end of my childhood street? What if I really had to survive in the woods? What if there was a ghost in my building? The world doesn’t have to be completely turned inside out and upside down for me to be curious about it. Sometimes the most alluring things are those where it could almost, just not quite, be real and fantastical.
That’s why I absolutely loved The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It had that delicate and yet so shocking touch of fantasy inside what is otherwise a normal world. Told from the point of view of a child, framed by the reflections of the child as an adult, The Ocean at the End of the Lane had that youthful imagination and practicality about it. The child doesn’t truly doubt what is going on. It just is.
Some fantasy/paranormal books run the risk of losing me with long, drawn-out language that makes me lose what the action is. I didn’t run into this pitfall with this book. Instead, it was a book that made me want to put down the television remote and read the next chapter. In many ways, I wish I could return to that world. I knew it was going to be something amazing, when the kid pulls the worm out of his foot. Sounds crazy if you haven’t read it, but that was the top of the cliff for me. I leapt after that.
I forgot to ask my book club this question: was it real or do you think the child dreamt it up? Was it all the imagination? Sure, it’s a matrix like question, but it’s that kind of questioning that makes me love a book that much more. It read like a child’s story for adults. And it was magical.