The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Neil Gaiman, William Morrow, 2013, 178 pp
Of course I loved this book. I love anything Neil Gaiman writes. It is impossible for me to be objective about his books because of this unconditional love. I could have wished it was longer so I could have stayed in his world for more hours, but even the brevity of the story is probably perfect.
Told in first person by a man who has just attended a funeral for a family member, it is a tale of returning to childhood memories and making sense of an incident not clearly understood when it happened. All it takes is a sad event and a familiar location. Then the unraveling begins.
All children have gone through terrible and scary events without much help. Sometimes it doesn't seem wise or useful to talk about such things with the parental units. You just know they won't understand or have anything helpful to say.
Because kids have a strong sense of justice, there are times when we have to become our own superhero or superheroine and take matters into our own hands. There is danger, you are afraid, and you have to sneak around.
I loved the way the boy was generally unhappy, found it hard to make friends, and spent his best most wonderful times lost in books. He was open to magic and understood that adventures were often scary and also required him to be brave.
I loved the three female characters: grandmother, mother, and Lettie Hempstock. Lettie was eleven, the boy seven, and she became his protector. She was the bravest of all though she made some mistakes.
Any parent who has a child who doesn't fit in and who spends hours alone whether reading or wandering or playing video games, knows that child is troubled about something. It is good parenting to pay attention and keep watch over such a child. But it's also good to have faith in the young person's ability to find his or her way.
I went to see Neil Gaiman talk about his new book. Even though we all had tickets in advance, the line to get in circled a city block and ended curled into a parking lot. It was hot, late afternoon. Finally we were all seated in the venue and Neil came on stage. The level of excitement, cheering, screaming, and applause was like being at a rock concert. Fantastic!
A boy who had his troubles and got lost in books, grew up to be one of the most well-known and loved authors. He seems to handle his fame and fans with a level-headed grace. He has also found good friends and love and he is happy to work hard at what he loves to do.
In his stories and novels and comics, he comes across as having some secret knowledge which he is compelled to share by means of storytelling. In The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, he writes for adults who remember what it was to be a kid. I read the book in a few hours and I plan to read it again, probably several times, the way I used to read my favorite books as a child. Just because.
(The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is available in hardcover on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)