#FridayReads: ‘An Ocean At the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman

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I stood in the living room of my apartment staring down at my boyfriend, his eyes glued to his tablet, reading the remaining pages of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. He’s a fairly slow reader, so I went about my household errands for 20 minutes and then entered the living room again. He sat there, looking up at me, eyes wide.

“Are you done? How was it?’ I said eagerly. It’s been a week since he started one of Gaiman’s most infamous novels, and I’ve been waiting on edge of my seat to hear his thoughts. Not only because I am a complete book nerd, but because American Gods was on my “to-read” list for quite sometime. I had plans to make it a part of my “read” list this year.

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“It was great, totally not what I expected in a good way,” he said. He started to tell me bits and pieces of the story and then, to not give away any spoilers, he capped it off with a “You should read it.”

From then on, I convinced myself to not pick up any other written book by Gaiman until I finished American Gods. I wanted that to be my first fiction title from the author and for a while it was really going well. I only caved with Marvel 1602, Gaiman’s graphic novel, which in my mind didn’t really count. Plus, in my defense, who could resist a $1.99 Kindle Amazon deal, especially in the height of the best X-men movie to date?

Then it happened, I received an email that said I had won a copy of An Ocean at the End of the Lane, one of Gaiman’s recent fiction releases, from Goodreads. I started to internally debate, was it worth it to just let this whole American Gods thing go?

After a month of waiting for the book to arrive and going back and forth, I decided to pick this one up last month. It was hard to resist. The book was getting a ton of positive reviews and I was particularly searching for a read under 300 pages. Plus, Goodreads asks that you review the book after you receive and read your advance copy, so it was almost as if I had to.

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So with my plan foiled, I opened up the dark blue covers to reveal an integral, magical story of a boy who crosses paths with Lettie Hempstock and her paranormal family. The story that comes next is frightening and at times sad, but intriguing. The way Gaiman told this boy’s story with such eloquence was absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those books that you can’t stray away from both literally and figuratively, even when you’ve physically put it down or out of your mind. I latched onto the way the characters spoke about the human spirit, and often times felt like I couldn’t shake myself from the darkness. It was probably the most raw reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.

The only “criticism” I have with the book was that it was too short. I left it feeling like I didn’t know enough about the boy, the boy’s family, or the Hempstocks, which was frustrating! I’m not sure if Gaiman is saving that for another novel, but I sincerely hope that is the case.

Aside from that minor take, I’m glad I let go of my elaborate American Gods plan and picked this one up first instead. Looking back and reading this over now, it was pretty stupid, not to mention I totally would have missed out on an incredible story. I hope i will have the same experience when I pick up and finish American Gods sometime this year.

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As the Managing Editor, Lauren Stern is responsible for curating Pop-Break.com’s content. This includes managing the editorial staff, coordinating the content calendar, and assigning publishing dates and deadlines. She graduated Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism and Philosophy. She spends her free time searching for the best gluten-free food in the Tri-State area, playing with her dogs, and reading an insane amount of books. She tweets constantly about pop culture and social issues and hopes you follow her musings @laurenpstern.