What do I think of the plot and treatment?
The Ocean at the End of the Lane follows a man who rediscovers the terrible secrets of his childhood when he returns home for a funeral. When he was seven and very lonely, a lodger at his home died and unleashed something primal and selfish and frightening; around the same time, he met Lettie Hempstock and her family–mostly consisting of women and far older than anyone could fathom. It is through his association with them and their efforts to keep our slice of reality safe that he ended up in the middle of a dangerous battle between things he could not understand. Old things. Adult-but-not-adult things.
It’s a very Gaiman plot, yes. And I clearly love those: clearing the darkness through wits and a willingness to believe in wonders. But the treatment is far darker, more potent. Don’t laugh, but it brings to mind a stew cooked with strong beer. It’s an excellent read, very substantial, very intoxicating, very strange to those not used to it, and–ultimately–a source of great comfort.
If you notice, I’m trying to not give too much away at this point. It’s because I firmly believe that I’d be doing this story a great disservice to tell you even some of the more notable things that happened in this book. Its shadows and corners and points of chiaroscuro need to be experienced in full, firsthand. For lack of a better term, it’s the sort of thing that you need to taste for yourself.
This is not a children’s book, nor could you call it an extremely adult book.
This is a story of terror and courage and truth.
More importantly, though, this is a story about faith and salvation–and the unfathomable things we find worth saving.
I don’t know what to call it, but I believe we all need more of that right now.