A surprisingly quick read, this funky story captures one particular instance in a boy's childhood that not only brings him into contact with the supernatural, but puts him in the face of death numerous times. Even though the boy never completely remembers the event after it happens, it's something that sticks with him indefinitely. The story gives our narrator a chance to survive while simultaneously allowing a young girl to become a hero. With so much magic sprinkled in and very unique folklore, there is never a dull moment.
We first meet our narrator as an adult, aged to the point where his own children are grown. He's returned home for a funeral and ends up being drawn back into childhood memories he's been made to forget. Specifically, the suicide of a man with a gambling problem and the magical evil his death allowed into the world. The evil sneaks in through the body of our narrator and defeating it requires the assistance of three women, older than time, living together on a nearby farm (magical in its own right.) The women all seem to be of specific ages with a timeless knowledge of the world. Their land, with its own magical attributes, contains a pond capable of becoming an ocean.
So, the evil hitches a ride in the narrator, ruining his heart in the process and temporarily turning his whole family against him so that he's basically in life-threatening danger. In order to defeat this evil, other mystical beings have to be called on that bring with them their own dangerous agenda. It's the youngest of the three women, Lettie, who becomes the hero and selflessly saves the boy in the end. Her devotion to protecting him is the bright spot in a very dark tale.
Fitting nicely into the style Gaiman has built in his writings, this book is dark and dangerous but not without hope. It's a satisfying read and I really enjoyed it.