Review of Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away

by Tom McNeal

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013. 369 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Capitol Choices Selection

Here is how Far Far Away begins:

What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. The boy possessed uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost . . . well, let it only be said that his intentions were good.

If more heavily seasoned with romance, this might have made a tender tale, but there was yet another player in the cast, the Finder of Occasions, someone who moved freely about the village, someone who watched and waited, someone with tendencies so tortured and malignant that I could scarcely bring myself to reveal them to you.

I will, though. It is a promise. I will.

This strange and fateful tale is narrated by the ghost himself — who is, in fact, the ghost of Jakob Grimm, and someone who knows something about tales.

Jakob was alarmed, after death, not to find his brother Wilhelm anywhere about. He did, however, find a boy in a small town who was able to hear ghosts, Jeremy Johnson Johnson. But this boy was in danger. Jakob knew that somewhere in the same town was the Finder of Occasions, who would want to harm such an uncommon boy.

This story tells about that harm, and how Jakob attempted to help. Along the way is a remarkable tale, fully worthy of the Brothers Grimm. Jeremy and his friend do go far far away, but can they end up with a happily ever after?

I always said that I’m not particularly a fan of ghost stories. Yet 2013 may have changed my mind about that. It seems to have been a year for excellent ghost stories, each one having a flavor and plot all its own. In this story, there’s nothing sinister about the ghost. But there are definitely sinister forces endangering Jeremy, which the ghost tries to protect him from. Beautifully told.

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, which I got at ALA Annual Conference, and had signed by the author.

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