The Ocean at the End of the Lane
William Morrow Books
At some point months ago, I must have pre-ordered a signed copy of Neil Gaiman’s new story. I vaguely remember something about it; I also remember a lot of red wine happening, maybe some Doctor Who with my cats…it seems a natural leap. It showed up on my doorstep in an unassumingly small padded yellow envelope from a bookstore I’d never heard of. I am not one to linger over an unopened package, so I destroyed the envelope, and what I held in my hands I could hardly believe. It was signed by Gaiman. It had a shiny gold sticker on the front. It was totally a brand new book signed by the author. I looked through my shredded scraps of envelope to see who was going to be my new most favorite person and I saw that it had come to me, from…me. I pieced together some hazy rememberings; was it possible that Sara from the past ordered a book to come just in time for Sara from the future’s birthday? Thank you Sara from the past! It’s a nice diversion from her constant screwing me over with hangovers, procrastination, and bad choices about bangs.
I had to watch an intensely hellacious city council meeting before I could dig into my freshy new book so finally, after 11pm, I crawled under the covers and cracked it open. I was going to read just one chapter and then go right to sleep. I finished the book around 3am, and I felt like the whole world needed to wake up to talk to me about what I’d just experienced.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane made me remember a time when I could freely grab a peanut butter ‘n honey sandwich, a book or two, and then set off to find a reading spot most enchanted. Somewhere near a stream, or on a carpet of snackable shamrocks by a spring box, or up a tree that had fallen between the fork of another tree, maybe on a swing sitting sideways with my back pressed up against the rope, a place where I could shift and roll around when my neck became tired from looking down or my arms grew fatigued from holding the book above my face. Someplace I could spend all day, nestled, undisturbed and comfortable, truly lost, in a good book. I discovered mysteries in those places—characters, geography, dreams, words and ways to describe the world, and I remember seeing my reflection at the bottom of the mossy wooden water tank and wondering which me was staring back and if I was the only me that there would ever be and feeling alive with my unique and magical me-ness. I also remember being frightened, and wondering whether or not trolls really had trapdoors under fake fairy rings.
Here’s my meta about The Ocean at the End of the Lane: the narrator finds himself sitting
on a bench, recalling the wonders and horrors of his childhood. This book was my bench, my magical remembering place. I felt like I was a character outside the story, as though the time after I set the book down and began remembering my own enchanted childhood was the true conclusion—the ultimate in audience participation. Maybe Sara from the past really ordered this for Sara from the future so that we could remember what it
was like to have an unbridled imagination, just to marvel at our us-ness for a little minute again.