The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
William Morrow, 2013
Fantasy; 181 pgs
From the Publisher:
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 love Neil Gaiman. I do not know why I have not read all his books yet. Every time I open one of his books, I am completely and utterly charmed and swept off my feet. It was no different with The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Although framed by the story of a man returned home for a funeral, this is really the story of that man as a boy, his friendship with an extraordinary girl, and what happens to him and his family after the suicide of a tenant who had been staying at their home.
I instantly bonded with the little boy in the story. Is it any wonder given how much he loved to read and how often he lost himself in books? He had no friends; in fact, no one showed up at his 7th birthday party, a fact that made my heart break for him. But after the body of the opal miner who had been residing with his family is found in the family's stolen car, our little narrator finds a friend in Lettie Hempstock, an 11 year old girl. There is something peculiar about her; although, there is no doubt she is a good person with the very best of intentions. She, along with her mother and grandmother, introduce the boy to a world outside his own. One in which you can pull a kitten from the ground like you would a carrot. One filled with magic and mysteries and untold darkness.
It is Lettie who first explains that the pond at the back of her farmhouse is the ocean, one that has shrunk over time but is still the same one her family traveled across long ago. Her grandmother was alive at the time the moon came into being. The boy wonders at the truth of it all, but accepts it, especially after he experiences some of the magic and mystery himself.
Evil latches onto the boy during a visit with Lettie, as she sets out to collect and bind that which had brought bad luck to the people in area after the opal miner's suicide. The horrors it brings are straight out of a young boy's nightmares. The very fabric of his family is threatened. Knowing the adults won't believe him, the boy turns to Lettie for help, trusting she will carry out her promise not to let any harm come to him.
Neil Gaiman's writing is so vivid, and yet, given the age of the narrator at the time the events occurred, there is an innocence about it. I fell in love with the Hempstock women, so strong and quick on their feet, mysteries unto themselves. The reader never really learns who--or what--they are, but they make one feel safe. They are the reason I didn't have nightmares of my own after finishing this book.
The narrator learns much during the course of the book, about himself and about the adults in his life. He finds a courage he did not know he has, and he comes to realize that adults are really like children inside, scared and trying to do the best they can, not always knowing the answers.
I found myself crying near the end of the novel, and feeling a bit sad at the very end, and yet hopeful. I love the way Gaiman brings his stories full circle in the end, while at the same time leaving room to wonder.
To learn more about Neil Gaiman and his books, please visit the author's website.
I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Ocean at the End of the Lane on the TLC Book Tours route!
Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided a copy of the book for review.
© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.