The Ocean at the End of the Lane Review
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I’ve always thought of my childhood as pretty average. When I turned seven, there were no friends at my birthday party, I didn’t get along with my sister, I was occasionally picked on at school, and I often found solace in books. In all those ways, I was just like the young protagonist in the audio version of the book I just finished. Unlike me, however, the book’s protagonist could escape to, or through, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

In Neil Gaiman’s sometimes charming, occasionally terrifying, and thoroughly poignant tale, I was reacquainted with the boy I was and introduced to the boy I now wish I’d been…or perhaps not. The Ocean at the End of the Lane tells the story of a young boy growing up in suburban Sussex, England, in a suburban house with suburban parents and a suburban sibling. It’s a story of absolute normalcy, the epitome of average life…until the day when a South African opal miner arrives, precipitating a tragedy that leads to a friendship, an open door, and a small duck pond that’s actually an ocean more expansive than the universe itself.

  
 
The Ocean at the End of Lane is a book that not only resists easy description, it also resists convenient categorization. At the story’s beginning, the now middle-aged protagonist is dealing with common adult situations: divorce, doubt and uncertainty, fear of the future, nostalgia for the past, a loved one’s passing. Nostalgia for the past (or something else, perhaps?) draws him back to the place where he grew up and then down the lane to the farm where a little girl once lived—a little girl named Lettie Hempstock, who had a small duck pond in back of her family’s farmhouse that she called “an ocean.”

Returning to that “ocean” causes memories to come flooding back, memories that become a story of childhood, coming of age, supernatural horrors, friendship, and epic fantasy. It’s a tale that, at times, is so fantastical that it defies both comprehension and reason. But, in the end, that’s okay—brilliant, even. Because, through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, anything is possible.

The finale of The Ocean at the End of the Lane left me in tears—not because of the story itself but, rather, because it ended. For, you see, I never wanted it to end. I wanted Gaiman’s beautiful tale to go on and on, forever and ever, like a pond that is an ocean that is a universe that is the incomprehensible. But, as Gaiman’s young protagonist learns, endings and other changes are inevitable…which isn’t always a bad thing.

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