Our bookstore recently held a signing for Neil Gaiman that drew nearly a thousand fans, maybe more. I'd never read any of his books before and figured that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a good place to start. It's a fairly short novel, around 180 pages, and some I've spoken with found it so compelling that they read it in one sitting. I, too, found it compelling—stunning even—but it took me about a week to read it, to savor it.
Told from the perspective of an older man looking back on a strange occurrence when he was seven, the novel is part ghost story, part fantasy, part mind bender. After witnessing a suicide on the edge of his family's land, the boy is taken under the wing of an 11 year old girl from the adjacent farm. The girl lives with her mother and grandmother in this world, but also lives in another world that is quite extraordinary, beautiful and terrifying in equal doses. Not to give anything away, but things happen.
I must note that this novel gave me very vivid dreams (that or it was the chili I ate), and I feel if I ever see some gray fabric-like thing flapping in the breeze, I'm definitely headed the other way. That was no ordinary laundry.