The story begins innocently enough. The narrator, a grown man, has just delivered a eulogy at a funeral that stirs memories from his childhood. After the service, instead of going immediately to the family gathering afterward, he drives down his old street and past his childhood home. He ends up at a neighbor’s house, where he gradually remembers details of the year when he was seven and met these unusual neighbors.
When a disturbing event at his own house drove him down the street, the kind neighbors, The Hempstocks, took him in for the day: a grandmother, mother, and 11-year old girl. That day was the beginning of a series of mysterious and frightening events that he had entirely forgotten in the intervening years. As he sits on a bench near the Hempstock’s pond (which the girl called an ocean), the events of that year and his interactions with the Hempstocks gradually come back to him.
To say much more about the plot would give away too much, as Gaiman has lots of surprises hiding around shadowy corners. Suffice it to say that the events of that year were magical and frightening to the seven-year old boy, as the curtain between the real world and the supernatural world was pulled back enough for him to get a glimpse of some strange and scary things.
I really enjoyed this brief novel. To make it even better, the audio book is read by Gaiman himself, who is a very talented narrator (my family previously enjoyed listening to him read his kids’ story, Odd and the Frost Giants). The fast pace, twists and turns in the plot, and Gaiman’s amazing talent as a storyteller kept me listening – I finished this audio book in record time! This was the first adult novel of Gaiman’s that I’ve read, and I look forward to reading more.
If you want to listen to a sample of the audio, click on the amazon link below - there is a "Listen" button just below the photo of the cover.