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The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives us something to look for. /image: media.salon.com

The Ocean at the End of the Lane gives us something to look for. /image: media.salon.com

Neil Gaiman’s new book is a tsunami

Article: Joel Huber – Contributor

Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, opens with a detour down an old country lane after a funeral service. A man’s memories, after sitting down next to an old “duck pond,” are brought forth and reinvigorated, sweeping him back to his childhood. We find him as his seven year old self, during a time of magic, fear, and remarkable women.

Our young and intrepid narrator finds his life disturbed by the cosmic effects of a desperate and sorrowful act: the suicide of an opal miner in the back of his father’s white Mini. The desperate, and in a sense propitiatory, sacrifice that the miner makes serves only as a catalyst—not for forgiveness or appeasement, but for more trouble.

Dark forces are kindled. Things that shouldn’t be awake and stirring are now eagerly finding ways to meddle in the affairs of humans. Great peril awaits our young protagonist. He’s going to need all the help he can get. Luckily, help comes from the end of the lane from a very old farm where three extraordinary women live. There is Old Mrs. Hempstock, Mrs. Hempstock, and Lettie Hempstock, a curious young girl who is convinced that her pond is an ocean. They are all that stand between our precocious young narrator and the horror of his new life

In this short book, only 178 pages, Gaiman paints a magical world from behind a small boy’s eyes. It’s a perspective that shows a world that is much more wondrous and interesting than we normally see it. It also happens to be much scarier than we’d like it to be.

Just as much as it has its chills (who knew that the colours pink and gray could be so frightening?), it has its tender, heartwarming moments. This story will change you.

And while you may be enthralled with the magic and wonder, and while your courage may be stolen away at moments, there are scarier things than weeping angels here, and while you may be pleasantly moved—you will also be inspired. These Hempstock women are amazing. They are kind, wise, and powerful. There are no damsels here. If anything, it is a successful reversal of the sexist trope. Anita Sarkeesian will be most pleased.

Gaiman has written a real gem that isn’t to be overlooked or dismissed. Seek it out, pick it up, and find out why a small pond is really an ocean.

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