Last November, I got to see Neil Gaiman on-stage during his only promotional stop for the Stardust release. (1. My town was the only stop, so SUCK IT; 2. It was awesome.) Unfortunately, I could only get a ticket to go to event, and not to go to the signing reception following it. People asked me if I was disappointed, and my answer was “Well, yes. But it’s also good because I would lose all ability to language if I got to meet Neil Gaiman so…yeah.”I say that I lose the ability to Language about Neil Gaiman because his writing and way with words makes me not only want to be a better writer than I am, but also makes feel like “HOW. WHAT DEMON DID YOU SELL YOUR SOUL TO WRITE LIKE THAT.” Yes, there are books of his that I didn’t like, but that’s because I’ve set the bar so high for his writing that the stuff I don’t like is still really good. So coming into Ocean… I did have a slight apprehension that “Okay, just gotta take it on its own merits…don’t come in expecting to be blown away, it doesn’t have to be American Gods or The Graveyard Book.” When I got to the end, I sat there and looked at the book for a bit. Because this is one of those books. The kind where you finish it and the reaction isn’t frothing at the mouth, I MUST TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT even though you will be screaming OMG READ THIS BOOK! to everyone you know and random strangers, but on that first reading, when you’ve read that last line, you need that few minutes to collect yourself emotionally. I didn’t cry at the end of this (not like The Graveyard Book, that one had me bawling at the end), but I just sat there for a minute thinking, “And this is why I tell people my Feelings About Neil Gaiman.” The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a very simple story. It’s not just about growing up and how suddenly the adult world is scary and big, it’s about that when you’re grown up, things are still scary and big. And that it’s okay not to have everything figured out. (You know how I bitch about adult literature? The difference between most of those books and this is that Gaiman actually acknowledges the fact that adulthood isn’t perfect and he doesn’t spend multiple pages harping on it. Yes, it’s the driving force of the novel, but the way it’s handled is why I don’t sit here and roll my eyes.) While the framing story could feel like a lazy way to set up the whole plot, I think that the framing story is the story. The most important part of the story, at the very least. Particularly once it’s revealed that this trip isn’t the first time the narrator has returned to the Hempstock farm since Lettie Hempstock went away. This is also the most thematically gray of all of Gaiman’s books. There is no bad guy or outright antagonistic force. There are antagonists in the form of the cleaners and ‘Ursula Monkton’ but they’re not vilified for the things they do. They just the beings they are, for good or bad, and while having them wreck havoc on our world is bad, it doesn’t mean that they ought to be killed. (Also, thank you Neil Gaiman for now making me afraid of tackling my feet with tweezers. Which I do a lot AND NEVER WILL AGAIN.) Even what Lettie and her family can do is treated with the upmost respect and caution, because they know the power that they can wield.(Two things about the Hempstock women: 1. I fail SPECTACULARLY for never realizing that Daisy from Stardust and Liza from The Graveyard Book had the same last name, much less from the same family until Gaiman mentioned it in interviews. It’s one of those things that I’ve never really dwelt on, and it’s even sort of kind of you need to be looking for it acknowledged in the book. 2. The Hempstocks consists of Lettie, her mother and grandmother. I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, GAIMAN.) As I said before, when I finished this, I sat there for a while contemplating the book. Not because the ending surprised me or there was a massive twist or anything, but the way it ended. And it does go out on a whimper, but it’s so…I don’t even know how to describe it. I think it’s a book that you would have to read for yourself. That said though, it’s completely wonderful and well worth the wait.