I received my copy a day early. For whatever reason. I was ecstatic. I had seen the tracking notice that the book was out for delivery and as a result spent all day at work eagerly anticipating diving into it. But as I open the package when I arrived home and saw it really, truly there in my hands, I couldn’t start to read it. I suddenly knew the exact feeling Patrick Rothfuss described in his blog post about this book.
This is the first book of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve gotten upon release. I was late to the magic magnificence that is Neil Gaiman. American Gods was the first Gaiman book I read. I embarked upon that masterpiece as part of a giant group twitter read. I loved it. And I loved reading it with a community and discussing it I the short 140 character bursts. I was hooked. I’d always loved the movie stardust and vaguely knew it was written by Neil Gaiman, but I’d never read it. After American Gods, I read Stardust and I read Anansi Boys. And then I convinced my book club to read Neverwhere (which sadly, was the wrong book to use to introduce my book club friends to Gaiman). I started following him on twitter and tumblr. I read The Graveyard Book. And I eagerly anticipated the release of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Last night, after opening the package, I carried the book with me everywhere. It was next to me as a watched a documentary on HBO. I absentmindedly caressed the raised letters on the cover as I watched. I read the inside and outside book jackets. I read the dedication and the opening epigraph, but I could not bring myself to start the book. It was partially a fear of being disappointed, but it wasn’t really that because I’d seen enough nondescript reviews to know I’d love it. It was more the fear that I would read it too quickly and once it was read it couldn’t be unread. There is only one chance to read a book the first time.
And so late last night, I started to read. As I read the prologue, I felt tears stream down my cheeks because just in the first few pages I understood something and felt something. I knew the book related to Neil’s own childhood past in some ways (inspiration and the beginnings of a story). The references to slowly grasping and remembering childhood memories which once were so real and vibrant but over time had faded to nothing. I’ve experienced that and have wanted to experience more of that. I read the prologue and felt my chest tighten, my throat close, and the tears began to flow more steadily. I stopped reading after the prologue.
There is magic in this book and I want to savor all 178 pages of it. I know I’ll end up finishing it sooner rather than later (and I’ll post my full thoughts on the book when I do), but I’ve broken the barrier. I’m ready to read this beautiful story and feel all the magic it has to offer me. And something tells me I’ll be reading it more than once.