128. Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
I think if I could write like Gaiman does, I might die of happiness. This book was short--but so lovely. Reading it felt very much like being immersed in one of those strange dreams where you wake not quite certain what is real and what isn't. Whimsical, lyrical, bemusing--all of those words fit this book.
The protagonist (I don't know that he's ever named) returns home to a rural part of England for a family funeral and finds himself drawn to the pond at the end of the lane. While there, he's overcome with memories from his childhood--particularly of the family who lived at the end of the lane and the daughter, Lettie, who insisted that the pond was not a pond, but was, in fact, an ocean.
As a seven-year-old boy, he wandered one night with Lettie across the boundaries of worlds and inadvertently became a door for something otherworldly to return home with him. His and Lettie's quest to send the being back where she belongs launches them on a series of mini-quests and encounters with curious creatures: some lovely, some haunting, some horrifying.
The story is simply told, but it has some lovely reflections on the nature of memory, on being a child (being both powerless and insightful), on the untrustworthiness of adults, and on the elusive nature of reality. A quick read, but a great one.