Bookworm: 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' offers dark, enchanting journey

Kathleen Duncan

June 26, 2013 at 1:26 a.m.

Children know great and terrible things. They know of the monsters that lurk in closets that slither out after the house succumbs to night.

They know of the boogeymen who hide under beds, waiting to grab the innocent ankle that slides, dangling heavy with sleep, over the edge. They feel the bewitchment of a dazzling, hot summer afternoon and taste it in smooth, chocolate ice cream melting onto their tongues. They believe in the magical possibility that there is something more.

They see everything with clear eyes and unfiltered souls. They are innocent of the years of experience that chisel down the reality we live within every day.

And that is what this book is about.

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel" by Neil Gaiman is a darkly enchanting novel.

A middle-aged adult man returns to his home in Sussex, England, for a funeral. Afterward, tired of the people and condolences, he drives along the dusty country roads and ends up at the Hempstocks' farmhouse. Behind the farmhouse, he is drawn to Lettie Hempstock's ocean and into the childhood he forgot he ever remembered.

"I remembered that, and, remembering that, I remembered everything."

When he was a young boy of only 7, a man committed suicide down the lane in their family car. When he discovers the body with his father, he is guided away to the nearest farmhouse by a young girl to shield him from the horror. Here begins his friendship with the wise, ageless, 11-year-old-looking Lettie.

She is the daughter of a timeless mother and a grandmother as old as the Old Country. Lettie tells him how they came across her ocean, which he sees as a pond, after the Old Country sank or possibly as old Mrs. Hempstock says, blew up. When he goes home that day, everything changes.

Soon there are mysterious, terrifying and wondrous things happening.

This book is a wonderful addition to the books of Gaiman's past. I am always frightened that the next novel of a beloved author will not live up to those before it, but Gaiman never disappoints. I begin his books excited and leave them feeling fulfilled in a magical, otherworldly way.

If you haven't enjoyed "The Graveyard Book," "Neverwhere," "Stardust," "Coraline" or "American Gods" yet, then do yourself a favor and pick them up when you go to check out this one. (I suggest reading "Neverwhere" first; it's my favorite.)

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel" is about dreams, memories and childhood. It is about magic, play time, faith and friendship.

It is about the shadows that dwell side by side with the light. And most of all, it is about the worlds that exist within each of us, if we're just brave enough to let them out.



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