What can I tell you about this book? I pre-ordered it months ago, as soon as Neil announced on his Facebook that Porter Books was selling signed first editions I bought one. At the time we were still living in our old flat, though we were scheduled to move sometime in May or June (or as it turned out pretty much from May 15th to June 15th, but that’s another blog entry for another blog).
Anyway, when the book came to be delivered they were going to send it to our old house, and that wouldn’t work at all so I asked UPS to hold it at the facility thinking I’d go get it after work a day last week. Not thinking that UPS is out by the airport and that after work it would probably take me an hour to get there and home again. In the meantime a friend gifted me the eBook version, I couldn’t read it. I needed the first read to be the signed copy.
I picked it up yesterday, after work, after UPS nearly sent the book back to Massachusetts! I’ve been waiting a long time. The trip took nearly an hour and a half. All the roads and freeways were a wreck yesterday due to the weird rain the Bay is experiencing right now and traffic looked like it was just going to go on forever.
In any event. I got home. I finished dinner for my family. I read a few pages between reading Shel Silverstein poems to my young daughter.
“I don’t know if I can read this,” I told my husband after page four. I’ve been following Neil for a while. I read Sandman when I was 11 and pretty much since then I’ve been a total fan girl. Through Neil’s journal and other social media outlets I’ve gained a rough sketch of his life these past several years. It’s been nice, as a fan, to have such access to a writer that I value and respect so much. I feel like many of his long time fans do, I suppose, like I know him a little more than I know some of my other author heroes.
I didn’t know, until a week or so ago, that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was so… real. I still didn’t have the book when I read Amanda’s review of it. “Oh shit,” I thought, “I can’t wait to read this book”. It was going to be a look into a man that I’ve admired for 20 years. Whose books I was raised on, whose books I lovingly read my daughter and give to friends.
On page four the book is so recognizably real it is painful to someone like me. I set it down and finished putting my daughter to bed. I went back to the book at a quarter to ten and read it straight through.
What a beautiful book. While it may be that Neil wrote it for Amanda, he’s shared it with us, and what a gift that is. It’s a story about love and fear and strength. It’s a story about an ending and a beginning. It’s a story about growth.
Fans will love this story. The will be enchanted and giddy and grateful. The may find they have the urge to go back in the archives and look up how closely events match up. That might take some of the magic out of the story, don’t be a dodo bird. New comers will find intrigue and terror, kindness and courage, and they will be glad that they read this book. Like his wife said, it’s a great place to start.
Keep reading, kittens. Stay uncomfortable!