The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, wastes no time in getting started. The story opens on the tragic murder of an innocent family, and follows the killer through their home in search of his final kill: a boy, no more than a toddler. The boy, something of an escape artist, had managed to climb out of his crib earlier in the night, and unwittingly slips past the killer and out the open door into the night. While “the man Jack” tears through the family’s home, the boy wanders up the road to find himself in the local graveyard. He’s recovered by the ghosts who live there, and at the pleas of his recently murdered mother, they agree to raise and protect the child from the outside world. They name him Nobody Owens, and as far as he’s concerned, he has never known any life outside the graveyard.
Each chapter opens at different points in Bod’s coming of age, written as short stories with their own beginning, middle, and ending on a significant event in his life. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard, but a part of him yearns to experience the living world outside the gates. As he grows, makes mistakes, and learns, the man Jack continues his search for the boy that escaped. The chapters are meant to be read gradually, as something of a macabre bedtime story. Granted, the setup makes for very, very long chapters, and would be something of a nuisance should one of the short stories fail to catch your interest. I only had issue with one such chapter, but the one prior and every one after that had me completely hooked.
I read someone describe the book as a story about living told among the dead, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Bod’s tale is incredibly touching, exciting, and bittersweet all at once. The ending tied everything together and finished things in a very complete way that’s not too common these days. And that kind of annoys me, because I’ve grown somewhat attached to Nobody Owens and wouldn’t mind another adventure or two with him. I’ll miss all the ghosts he met as he grew up, all of those that have had their chance to live, those who will forever remain the people they were as they died.
Winner of the 2009 Newbery Award, and with a movie already under production before the book’s even hit six months on the shelves, The Graveyard Book seems to be the “big thing” in children’s literature right now. I’ve been hearing so much about it that I couldn’t resist putting my To-Read pile on hold for a bit to fit it in. I lost a dangerous amount of sleep finishing it, and I don’t regret a minute of it. It’s been a long time since a book has drawn me in like this. My only complaint is that there isn’t more.
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