Word Nerd Review Halloween Edition: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Trisha Quezada
We see things differently as adults than we did when we were children. But what if we could revisit our childhood so completely that we would truly relive those pivotal moments of our youth? That’s what happens to the narrator in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. After traveling to the hometown of his youth, he finds himself at the end of the dirt lane, visiting Lettie Hempstock’s house. He hasn’t thought of her in years, and he can’t quite remember how he knew her…until he sits by the side of the duck pond and remembers when it was an Ocean. A time when the neighbors farm spanned miles and intersected with other realms. The story of when a being from that other realm hitched a ride home with him and became his evil babysitter.
Rather than being the reminiscence of a childhood fantasy, there’s an element of fantastical realism in the telling of this tale. It’s clear that this really happened (in this obviously fictional time and place) and that the narrator’s adult mind just can’t quite accept the truth. It reminds me a bit of the theme that children’s minds are more open to possibilities that adults later forget or gloss over in their memories. It’s creepy, heartfelt, intense, and utterly wonderful. Practically perfect as a Halloween read (I wish I had time to work up an Ursula Monkton costume), but great anytime.
While this is my most recent Neil Gaiman book, I’ve read a few of his others too and they’ve been fantastic. If this one sounds interesting, I’d also highly recommend The Graveyard Book (AMAZING as an audio book) and, if you have kids, Fortunately, the Milk which is one of my all-time favorites to read to my kids.