If the books of Ray Bradbury had an affair with the books of Diana Wynne Jones, the resulting lovechild would very probably look something like The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
After that, I don't know if there's a whole lot to say.
So here's the slightly-less short version:
There is terror and there is trust, there is betrayal and there is sacrifice, mistakes are made and stands are taken. It's quiet and strange, and it very definitely won't be for everyone—some readers won't like the strangeness, and others will find the plot extremely slight—but it worked for me. The whole story could have been told in, like, five pages, sure... but it's less about the plot and more about the undercurrents of emotion.
It also felt, to me, like a celebration of women, because—apart from the narrator's mother—the book is filled with larger-than-life female personalities: his sister, Ursula Monkton, and the Hempstocks. And speaking of the Hempstocks... they are a child, a mother, and a grandmother; they are three, but they are also (maybe?) one. They made me think of the Fates, of course, but they also made me think of Madeleine L'Engle's Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.
It's the story of events that happened during the narrator's childhood—he channels the rawness of the emotions of his seven-year-old self; he describes certain adult events in a way that conveys his lack of understanding about the details of what's going on, but also makes it clear that, in his gut, he understands the wrongness of what is going on—and, across the board, his understanding and descriptions of his experiences comes across as childlike, but never twee. And note that I said childLIKE, not childISH. There's a difference.
Anyway, I liked it. A lot. But I totally understand why some of my patrons have brought it back saying, "WHAAAAAAAAAAA?"
Book source: Borrowed from my library.