Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Online Book Club: Ocean at the End of the Lane

Current Book: Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

"Ocean at the End of the Lane" was told as a simple fairy tale, but the story carries depth, and the details pull the reader right into the story. It starts with a middle-aged man returning to his childhood home to attend a funeral. His childhood home is gone, but he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where he remembers when he met a remarkable girl and her mother and grandmother. The boyhood story starts when a man committed suicide in a stolen car near the girl's farm, and that unleashes a story full of scariness, magic, and comfort that is hardly understood by the boy at the time. Gaiman's tale weaves the themes of childhood vs. adult memories and perceptions in a modern fairy tale that captures how magical childhood can be and what it is like to feel helpless as a child when terrifying and unexplainable things start to happen.

Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments. Some discussion questions to get you started:
  1. The story discusses the memories of childhood and adulthood. In what ways do children perceive things differently an adults? Do you think there are situations in which a child's perspective can be more "truthful" than an adult's?
  2. One of the many motivators for the characters in this story is loneliness. How do adults and children respond to loneliness in different ways? In the same ways?
  3. The narrator tells us that later in life, his father admitted that he had never actually liked burnt toast, but ate it to avoid waste, and that his father's confession made the narrator's entire childhood feel like a lie: "it was as if one of the pillars of belief that my world had been built upon had crumbled into dry sand." What other "pillars of belief" from childhood does he discover to be false? How do these discoveries affect him? Are there any beliefs from your own childhood that you discovered to be false? 
  4. Were the fantastic moments real or just how the boy saw the world at the time?


Next Book:Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim


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