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28 November 2013

'The Lovely Bones' by Alice Sebold

In this book the author Alice Sebold gave me a workout

I picked up this book and put it down at least twice a year for ten years in different shops, airports and countries.  As a mother with a powerful imagination, I did not have enough courage to read this book.  Recently, I received it as a gift from .  I watched the movie a year or so ago with my daughter so I felt prepared.  I was not prepared... The movie is lovely, heaven is captured just right and the antagonist is also perfect but, as is often the case, the book is better.  I am so glad I read this book though.  Sometimes, if I read about something I fear, like the murder in this book, I do not stop fearing it but I gain depth and faith.  Faith in my own strength is hard enough but, at least for me, faith in other people's strength is even harder.

Heaven, murder, grief and time are themes often explored in literature.  Alice Sebold makes them all fresh.  Heaven in particular is such a believable and comforting place.  Comfort and love are surprising words to use about a book that starts out with such a horrible crime.  This crime is my worst nightmare.  While the narrator was a dead 14 year old girl, as a reader I felt both the suffering of the parents and of the child.  Like I said, my imagination can be quite strong and even insert appropriate smells; in this book the author gave me a workout.  My imagination was not stressed or stretched to the point of disbelief.  Quite the contrary.  I felt that I lived all these confused, unexpected emotions.  Heaven itself was a comfort to my senses and not just to the narrator.  My heaven includes youth, health, mountains, open spaces and my favorite flowers and scents.  Pets are allowed, company when I want it and vast, wonderful, magical libraries.  I bet I missed a few things but this feels right for now.

Life does go on, through grief, horror, violence or even those bullies in high school.  I do not think forgiveness is necessary to move on.  I think the effort to forgive focuses too much on the perpetrator of the offense.  It is better to look to your own strength and towards those you love, who often love you too.  Forgive if you want but always move on.

Alice Sebold 
ISBN: 9781447202653 

08 November 2013

'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' by Neil Gaiman

I was sad to put the book down.  I even forgot my tea. Neil Gaiman is improving in his art.

Sometimes books have no beginning, middle or end.  Well, obviously they do... after all  most books are not infinite or worse, 'War and Peace'.  But sometimes books, their authors and by that mysterious alchemy called imagination, readers tap into an on-going story.  'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' is such a book.  It catches a paragraph or two of a much greater story about humanity, belief, faith, love, temptation and nightmares.  In fact, it captures a glimpse of the creation of humanity... we all suspect we are only half baked anyway; we are still in the process of becoming.

'Boneland' by Alan Garner is also such a book.  In fact, I felt 'Boneland' is the male counterpart of 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane'.  Neil Gaiman tapped into a feminine side of the great story that is us.  The Hempstock women superficially represent the well known aspects of the feminine archetype, the hag (grandmother), the mother and the virgin (daughter).  On a deeper level, they point the way to, and protect us from, different realities.  They even protect us from ourselves.

I am a little afraid of the Hempstock ladies.  I sense real power there and finite patience.  I should mention that they feel familiar, which is probably why they frighten me a little.  I am certain I met them before, maybe in books or maybe in person.  I can even tell you what I think they smell like, so yes they feel real.  I was sad to put the book down.  I even forgot my tea.  I had to say goodbye to them like the protagonist.  And like the protagonist, my memory has faded... I know they are out there somewhere when a book like this reminds me of my own story.  Reading this book is like going home.  Neil Gaiman is improving in his art.

Neil Gaiman 
ISBN: 9781472200310