I come from a long line of readers, it is just how this family roles, we read, we read and oh yes of course, we read. Funny enough though we do not expound on our readings, choosing to pile the books up high around our houses, quietly enjoying our self-created book fortresses. This all came to pass when I found myself a mom with a slight, so slight barely there, emotionally groundbreaking (once again, every so slight) identity crisis. Not to go into the mom thing because Thank the Maker is not at all about the mom thing and all about what this mom is reading thing but the mom thing is really the catalyst of this entire thing.
With newborn in tow, and book consumption down to an all-time low I realized that being a mom does not equate just being a mom and started to freak-out on what exactly I was/am/and going to be. Raising a child is not for the faint of heart, and if someone says it's a piece of cake, they are a dirty, dirty liar. That being said, this blog and this post is not about being a mom but in a convoluted way it is. And as with all things Neil Gaiman, his new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about one thing but really so much more.
As with Margaret Atwood, I have shockingly discovered quite a few people who are not into Gaiman's writings. The hubby, who should be acknowledged for his awesome foresight of taking the sonny swimming today, giving this mommy time to do some sci-fi geeking (writing) did not find The Ocean at the End of the Lane his thing. I still find this surprising as he cruises the deep corners of the web keeping informed of the latest UFO dramatic occurrence but couldn't stretch his level of disbelief to dip into a fairy tale. Not that I am saying that UFOs are hullabaloo and that buying a generator for the inevitable invasion is a waste of our savings, I am not saying that, I am just saying....you know, I am saying nothing, I like being married.
Whether you consider this a fairy tale or a story about the perceptions of reality, I found it to be an inquisitively magical novel that left me wondering what parts of our memories are accurate or fabrications of what we perceive accuracy to be. A warning, this is a fairy tale with demons, darkness and levels of emotional and physical dangers that accompany the lives of the children within the tale. It is not a romp of a novel, it won't leave you feeling blessed but it will leave you feeling touched with the magic of the unknown. This book delivers, keeping to what Gaiman does best, spinning the mundane into a supernatural package of questions.
My maternal grandmother, Ida, the youngest daughter of a Norwegian immigrant family of 8, maybe more...children whose family homesteaded on the prairies of Saskatchewan (and just south of the border) has been visiting me of late. She brings with her the scent of purple petunias and hybrid roses that permeate through the rooms in my house seeming to intensify in my bedroom where her wedding ring lies within my jewelry box. Her visitations are never announced but always fortuitous. A sense of peace, gladness and great love settles over me, leaving me knowing that whatever is currently happening, I am not alone.
Grandma passed in 2003, but as we all know memories live forever keeping the spirit of those we love strong and true in our daily lives. With the warmth of July settling over the downtown of Toronto, the maple leaves starting to droop heavy with green and the flowers beginning to shine and burst in happiness I lost myself in Mary Rickert's novel, The Memory Garden. With a grandma whose house was filled with violets and a yard absolutely bursting with flowers, I am a true flower girl at heart. I spend the winter months dreaming of what wonders I will plant in the spring, every year sighing over my lack of true gardening space to get dirty and plant some potatoes. Yo, everyone should plant potatoes.
Io9, the website for fans of science, books and awesome geeky things described The Memory Garden as a breathtaking masterpiece. While I am reluctant to use the term masterpiece leaving such accolades for Tolstoy and Herbert (yes, yes I did just rank Tolstoy with Herbert) I would concur that the novel is breathtaking. Rickert accomplishes what all writers hope, create a world in which the reader cannot escape from nor want to any time soon. In fact, many of my recommended reads are based on the ability of the writing to pull me in so completely that I lose a sense of myself.
The back cover descriptor of The Memory Garden produces an inadequate ability to express what is going on within the bound pages. Yes, Bay the outcasted teenager living with her Nan is a component to the story but not the main character, acting more as a foil than the protagonist. Do yourself a great service. Never read a book's back cover descriptor again. For some reason they never do the book justice, tending to lead the reader down an unexpected road that at times can result in disappoints, even confusion. The publishing world should reconsider this tried means of advertising and test out word clouds or better have me read all of the books, printing my very coherent (why do you scoff?) synapsis of why you should read it. True, I would end up writing reviews only for science fiction and the odd mystery novel but what is the issue with that people? I really see no issue.
During the frosted hells of January I read a treat of a book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore; a lovely romp of a tale that could easily be the male version of The Memory Garden as both are the pursuit of secrets wrapped up in a quest. Granted Rickert's quest keeps within the garden and mind of Nan, a lady of certain age and powers while Sloan's quest is more vigorous taking the reader across the U.S.A. Both novels manage to do exactly what we want them to do, hold their secrets just long enough to keep us turning the pages, revealing the wonders and horrors hinted at. However The Memory Garden is a very feminine book, steeped with the leaves of witchcraft and the female perspective. This book, it pains me to admit, may not be everyone's cup of tea because of its womanhood.
For me though, The Memory Garden is a true treasure, especially if you had a grandma who loved her gladiolas as much as she loved her grandchildren. Intrigued in the power of secrets, witches and moonflowers, well then, this here is your summer 2014 read.