After finishing American Gods, I quickly dove into The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman. It is a charming, much shorter read than American Gods, though the mystery seems less precise. Gods is a gut-punch, a brain-bend, while Ocean is a sweet glance at supernatural worlds and the nature of memory. It reminded me very much of The Gates, which I read at Halloween, although instead of particle physics we are dealing with elusive magic which opens portals.
Lettie Hempstock is a strange eleven-year-old (who has probably been 11 for a very long time) who lives at the end of the lane where our unnamed narrator grew up. They share an incredible experience together, fraught with otherworldly creatures and ancient enchantments, but he finds himself with much different memories shortly thereafter. He forgets about her entirely until he finds himself at the end of that lane forty years later, escaping from a stuffy funeral reception. He sits by the duck pond there, which Lettie always called her ocean, and his childhood memories, vivid and frightening, come flooding back.
The story ultimately left me craving more, for there are many details left unexamined, unexplained — but the more I think on it, the more appropriate the absence of total clarity seems. The narrator is remembering his world as a 7-year-old, and there are many wonders that small children innately believe, instinctively do not question. The mystery is less precise, perhaps decidedly so. It is certainly a book that draws a thick line between childhood and adulthood, of the things we try to remember and the things we lose forever. This is a great, quick read for a nostalgic evening.