It’s always a good idea to veer out of your lane now and then. I’m talking about reading genre fiction of course, not driving.
If you find yourself staying in one genre, as I have been guilty of in the past, then you ought to try out another one. I found that I had a better appreciation for writing after testing the waters of horror, fantasy, and graphic novels. I naturally gravitate towards biographies and classic fiction. Lately, I’ve been challenging myself by reading books that are out of my lane.
I want to share with you two novels that I've read that are as strange as they are magical; Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.
This is the first time I’ve read a novel by Neil Gaiman. I watched the movie Coraline, based on his novel, and it stuck with me. His style might be described as “dark fantasy”, but it’s so much more than that. The Ocean at the End of the Lane reminds us of how our malleable childhood memories can shape our futures. The narrator shares some events that took place when he was seven. A child’s encounter with an alien-like malevolence in the novel reveals raw wisdom about ourselves as adults.
The story is full of supernatural and magical adventures and characters but is truly suitable for humans of all ages. Those well-versed in fairy tales will love the way this story unfolds. I love the wonderful descriptions of food that he eats on the farm in the English countryside such as honeycomb, fresh yellow cream, and shepherd’s pie.
I loved how the book made me feel uneasy at times. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for some to read it before bedtime. There are some Lovecraftian scenes that are going to frighten. I recommend this novel to anyone who reads.
Ruth Ozeiki’s story is expansive and engrossing. At times, it's also weird and uncomfortable. The novel is a cohesive and well-written story that is somehow also a bizarre mash-up of ideas. There's a Kamikaze uncle, zen Buddhism, quantum physics, and lucid dreaming all mixed together.
One of the protagonists is Ruth who playfully has the same name as the author. She is an artist and writer living on an isolated island in Coastal British Columbia. She finds a journal washed up on the beach inside a hello kitty lunch box.
The journal is written by a teenage girl named Nao in Japan, our second protagonist. These two protagonists mirror each other even though the communication is one way and frozen in time. Ruth wants to solve the mystery of what happened to Nao. She reads the journal to her husband and along the way she receives help from the island's other inhabitants. They help her learn more about Nao’s life and shine more light on Ruth's own life in the process.
I liked the familiarity of the landscape of Ruth’s home. I've been to similar coastal BC island communities many times before. I understand how it feels to be a city person out of your element, like Ruth. The book is an engrossing read. I haven't seen such a unique story in a long time!
Check out these books to shake up your perspective. I recommend these reads to anyone who has a little bit of nerd inside and who can appreciate a challenging read. Thanks for reading my mini-book reviews! For more glimpses at my bookshelf, check out my article on Sparking a reading Renaissance.