Book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: 2013 (HarperCollins)
I turned off my "let's not buy stuff and make ourselves poor" switch when I went to visit my friend for the most American 4th of July ever in Austin, and boy was it ever worth it.
I started at the Columbia airport newstand when it had this book and Night Film (saving that for the very end of my "you're home now and not allowed to spend money until your gas tank coughs and your fridge is dying of starvation" mode) and the Thomas Wolfe in my carry-on was getting ponderous. (More on that soonish!)
And of course it was worth it. So worth it. Neil Gaiman has such a deft touch of the magical that if I don't watch out he will convert me to high fantasy without me even noticing. But the thing I like most about him is that he could totally do that but he doesn't want to, he just wants to show the alternate versions of reality where magic just makes real life more interesting,
easier, and way more difficult all at the same time.
We meet this guy going back to his home farmtown for a funeral, and he's drawn to the next door lady neighbors who have a pond in back that their girl used to call an ocean. Flashback - done well as a fall into one long whole story - into when the boy was seven and the girl was eleven and one time he accompanied her on what turned out to be a supernatural errand to banish this oogy force from the land because it wanted to give people what they want but in terrible ways, and then there were also Things flying around taking bites out of the world to leave spots of nothing gaping voids.
On this errand, the boy lets go of the girl's hand, and that lets the oogy force get into him and then manifest as a housekeeper who steals the hearts of his family and breaks it apart and makes his dad almost kill him before the boy can team up with the ladies and banish it forever. The ocean's this spot of healing that they dunk him in, and the girl hurls herself in front of the boy to save him and then she's dipped into the ocean and goes into a deep coma. Nobody knows when she'll wake up, and of course it
shakes him for life but as soon as his family moves away his memory gets dim and stores it in this lidded unconsciousness of childhood until he's reminded about it all at once when he comes home again.
It's a slender book packing a lot of big questions about memory, childhood, getting what you want, friendship, magic, and how it all knits together slantwise at a certain impressionable time of your life. I loved it, and I'm a book closer to a section my shelves being The Neil Gaiman One-Man Show Spectacular.
Other book finds: FINALLY replaced Consider the Lobster and FINALLY bought Infinite Jest. You people WILL know why I like David Foster Wallace so much even if you take nothing else away from this blog.