The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
William Morrow, $25.99, 178pp
Release Date: June 18, 2013
This just has to be the most magical story I’ve ever read, or at least, that I can remember. And I’m sure I’ll remember this for a long time. It almost seems a shame to reduce the experience to mere words, I’m a little afraid that I’ll lose some of the magic.
A little seven-year-old boy, from a typically dysfunctional family, finds a summer friend in eleven-year-old Lettie Hempstock who lives at the end of the lane. The times are uncertain and dangerous, there is something that is influencing people and causes a catastrophe in little..(oh, my gosh! I just realized I can’t name the boy)’s life. Lettie promises to fix it and takes him with her to do it. Unfortunately, being only seven years old means it’s hard to remember instructions or believe them necessary, so he lets go of her hand at a crucial moment and everything changes in that moment.
I honestly don’t know how to describe anything past that. Some of it sounds so mundane or unimportant if I speak it aloud but it’s not. And events are both more mundane or more momentous when experienced by a young child. Neil has beautifully captured the voice of a child remembered by an adult.
The Hempstocks, child, mother and grandmother, are not …usual people. And their farm doesn’t seem to quite belong to this world. What they are and what they can do is given to the reader is tiny glimpses. There are no long expositions to explain their backstory (thank you, Neil), no retrospectives to explain the whys and wherefores. They are what they are and we have to accept just that, just as that little boy did. If you finish this book feeling cheated of a full explanation then you’ll have missed the magic and the experience.
Neil is an extraordinary storyteller, a peer of Ray Bradbury. Both of them have an exquisite ability to craft a perfect story. ~~ Catherine Book
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