Have you ever visited an old friend or a childhood spot, which you haven’t seen with adult eyes before? And as you look at the face or place, a memory comes to mind; a recollection so fantastic—so unlike something the person you’ve become would think or do—that you would swear that it was a dream? What if it isn’t and you find yourself all grown up, facing your childhood monsters? We all know adults aren’t as brave as kids…
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.
I was taken by Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Halfway through the third chapter, I knew this would be one of my reread-every-year novels. It is a short novel, but filled with enough symbolism to populate worlds. A grown man, who gets to think himself back to boyhood, allows the reader to experience the most important event in his life—one that he doesn’t quite remember… The story, the boy-man’s memories—and perhaps the entire world—are held together by the Hempstock women: a maiden, a mother and a crone full of magic, life, death… and rebirth.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a delicious read. If, like me, you have a thing for yummy tales, fly over to Incipient Wings for a A Book and a Blanket... and read on ;-)