I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.
Adult stories never made sense, and they were so slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets. Masonic, mythic secrets to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?– The Ocean at The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
In Gaiman’s 2013 work The Ocean at The End of the Lane, we journey with the protagonist through his memories. He’s returned home for a family funeral, and is expected at his sister’s. He’s never been the most socially adept person — even as a child — and instead drives down long-forgotten roads until he reaches a place he had not been to since his childhood.
The place where he can see the ocean.
And when he stands by the pond (which his friend, Lettie Hempstock, calls the ocean) all his memories return. He takes us back with him, to when he was 7 years old, and the chain of events that connected him to Lettie.
There’s something different about Lettie from the start. Lettie, her mother and her presumed grandmother, are all a little peculiar. They have a way of saying things that suggests they know the secrets of the universe. When our protagonist wakes up choking on a coin one morning, Lettie and her family realize the problems in their neighborhood go beyond normal human problems. This leads to what might appear to be an adventure, but it sets in motion another chain of events that have potentially devastating consequences, and may cost one of the children their lives.
This is a great story of friendship and discovery and the power of memories. It’s always my goal to avoid spoilers, so I won’t say more about the plot, but I enjoyed the unexpected as the story progressed. There is fear, and some bad things happen, but there is also hope that underscores the story. Much of this could be a story for all readers, but there are some hints to some adult content that may not be suited for middle grade readers.