The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Adults follow paths. Children explore.

A couple of months ago I heard of Neil Gaiman for the first time. Every single day since then I have seen his name pop up in the various blogs I follow. Evidently he’s a popular author who does it all (screenplays, novels, graphic novels) and I was shocked at myself for never realizing his existence before, despite evidently being beaten over the head by it. Although I was told to read American Gods first, I decided to go with his newest release The Ocean at the End of the Lane because how can you resist a title like that?

The story begins when the narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral after years of being away. Looking around his old stomping grounds, memories of childhood come rushing back to him. His recollections start at age seven when there was a suicide that led him to the Hempstocks — a clairvoyant, electron-seeing, bacteria-coercing, farming family down the lane. Behind their house is a small duck pond that eleven year old Lettie Hempstock insists is an ocean.

Not only does the suicide lead the narrator to the Hempstocks, but it also unleashes an entity upon the town that seems to want nothing more than to give people money, but goes about it wrong: stuffing money in people’s throats while they’re sleeping and pelting them with coins from behind a bush. The entity is also bringing money based nightmares to the town. In all, although the intentions are seemingly good, the townspeople are not happy about what is going on. Together Lettie and the narrator travel to the realm where the entity exists to stop it. Something goes wrong there and the entity escapes from the other realm and sets out to give people what they want, making the world a happier place for it to live in, but all the while ruining the narrator’s life. Lettie and the narrator must once more send this entity back where it came from for good, but it won’t be nearly as easy as they hoped.

During junior high there was a short period when I was almost exclusively reading fantasy novels. When I moved on to high school my tastes began to change and I really haven’t read much fantasy since. So this was a change of pace for me and I enjoyed it. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a very short, fun read. I thought it was reminiscent of A Wrinkle in Time (which I haven’t read in a very long time so I may be wrong there) with the family of supernatural women joining forces with the friendless, bookish narrator in order to defeat the troublesome entity that is tearing apart his family. Although it’s not a book I’d read again, or even one I’d tell people, “You’ve just GOT to read this,” it was an enjoyable end of summer read and I’d be interested in reading other works by the author.

 

 

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