The Ocean at the End of the Lane


"I liked myths.  They weren't adult stories and they weren't children's stories.  They just were."

After reading The Anansi Boys I had decided that Neil Gaiman was a bit out of my point of reference.  I just didn't connect with that story, and I didn't get the imagery.  So when I walked past the "staff picks" section at the library and saw this book I was drawn by the title.  I didn't even notice the author's name in 36 point type.  How did I immediately know that there couldn't be a real ocean at the end of a lane?  I knew that it had to be something different, maybe magical?  I was hooked. Then I saw the author. Oh well, I'll give him an other try.

So glad that I did. Once again, I didn't get it at first.  I started, as I think Gaiman wanted us to, in a reality, sad and tragic in many ways, finding wounds within me that are still surprisingly raw; connecting in ways I wasn't sure that I wanted to.

And then, like Madeleine L'Engle and L. Frank Baum he picked me up and set me down in a fanciful world that I did not recognize and wasn't sure I wanted to visit.  But I could not turn back.  I stood in the field with the nameless little boy and his friend Lettie and I let the childhood terror of the unknown and paralysis of doubt wash over me.  I remember those feelings, yes I do.  Or are they not really a memory, but an experience still with me that was triggered as I walked into the story of these two children?

Danger was confusing and capricious....monsters posing as nannies, hunger birds who could tear your heart out, ponds with the depths of oceans. But, there was also a circle of safety, the protection of fairies, the wisdom of a woman who remembered when the moon was made.  And there was epiphany.

Such a beautifully terrifying and true landscape of a childhood experience.  The more I read, the less I wanted to keep going, I knew it would be difficult, and yet the stronger was my refusal to turn back.  

And then I was rewarded ... at the end of the story, the boy, now an adult, is talking with the mother of his dear friend Lettie....

"Lettie did a very big thing for you," said Ginnie.  "I think she mostly wants to find out what happened next, and whether it was worth everything she did."

"And did I pass?"

"You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear."