THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman

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He isn’t sure what made him drive to his childhood home after the funeral.  The stirrings of memory— nostalgia perhaps.  But it isn’t until he finds himself back at the Hempstock’s farm that he remembers Lettie, and the duck pond that she had called her ocean.  And it is staring at the ocean that all of his childhood memories suddenly flood back.

He remembers that it all started just after his seventh birthday when the Opal Miner arrived, and then abruptly left.  The Opal Miner’s suicide was the bridge that first connected their world to the other world, the world with the orange sky and the tall grey sheet woman, flapping in the wind, who claimed she only wanted to give the people money.  Eleven-year-old Lettie and her strange mother and grandmother did not seem afraid the woman.   They said that she is nothing more than a “flea.” But they did not wake up with a coin shoved down their throats like he did, and besides, they had strange magics of their own.  Lettie believed that all of the danger was past when she bound the grey sheet woman under the orange sky, but Lettie did not see the worm travel into the bottom of his foot.  The flea came back with him and took control of his family, twisting them toward evil.  And when a flea escapes into a world, the varmints are sure to follow.

Teen and adult lovers of Coraline will be pleased to read Neil Gaiman’s latest dark fantasy.  Once again, a young child finds himself pitted against an ancient magical entity in the illusion of human form.  Instead of kidnapping the parents, this flea manipulates them and uses them as agents of cruelty.  But in this novel good and evil are less clearly defined; most of the cruelty the flea inflicts by simply giving the humans what they desire.  This book is a bit more pensive than many of his others and will be most enjoyed by adults who still feel like children, at least sometimes, and are willing to imagine the world through a child’s eyes again.  This novel does not rank as highly in my esteem as Stardust, Coraline, or The Graveyard Book, but it was an enjoyable story and as always, great to listen to when narrated by the author.

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