WHAT’S PLAYING: Erykah Badu “Bag Lady”
This week’s book is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
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.
This book came to me at an opportune time. I had just lost my mother and was suffering through yet another bout of pneumonia—the same disease that killed my mom. To tell you the truth, I was in a very bad place. Then one day, a package arrived in the mail. I opened it and found this:
A couple of years ago, I met Neil’s American editor, Jennifer Brehl, at a convention and developed a serious girl-crush on her. Lucky for me, she’s as kind as she is brilliant, and didn’t call security on me. Instead, we struck up a friendship over our shared love of books. When she heard about my troubles, she sent me the book pictured above, along with a copy of his Make Good Art speech. Both books now reside on a very special bookcase that no one but me is allowed to touch.
I am not kidding. Touch it, and I’ll beat you with a bag of oranges.
Gaiman is a master of creating worlds that are just a bit…off. I’ve read this deceptively short and simple book at least eight times, and it never fails to move me. It sinks its hooks into my soul and I’m left helpless, caught between wonder and terror.
And every time, I come away not quite sure where the mundane ends and the fantastic begins.
Favorite Line/Image: “I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”
Bottom Line: Damn you, Neil Gaiman. You made me cry.
Coming up next: NOS4ATU by Joe Hill