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Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away
by Tom McNeal


It seems that when Jacob Grimm passed away in 1863, he wasn’t quite finished telling stories. In Far Far Away, the author’s ghost remains trapped on Earth, unable to pass to the other side. He befriends a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson, one of the rare few who can hear the ghost’s quiet whispers. Jeremy’s mother abandoned her family and ran away with another man, causing his father to become a recluse who never leaves his room. The boy is lonely, trapped as he is in the town of Never Better with no friends and a pending eviction from the only home he’s ever known. When a pretty girl named Ginger convinces Jeremy to play a prank on the local baker, he becomes the town pariah, alienated by all. Grimm tries to steer his young friend in the right direction, away from trouble and harm, but it seems no matter what they do the boy’s problems increase. Darkness hangs over Never Better, and it threatens to swallow up everyone Jeremy cares about unless he can solve the mystery of the Finder of Occasions, who watches and waits with evil intentions…

The story is filtered through the eyes of Jacob Grimm, a man outside of time. I believe that is why there’s a sense of timelessness to the story – it could probably have taken place at any time in the past fifty-eighty years. I think that it’s meant to be set in the present, and perhaps to the dead Grimm markers of time have ceased to be important, and he simply doesn’t think to mention dates or objects he doesn’t quite understand, like cell phones. Alternatively, maybe the town of Never Better is somehow outside of time, like Storybrook was in the first season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time TV series. I guess it’s not important, just a detail that helps contribute to the fairy tale atmosphere.

There’s a magical element in the story – it’s being narrated by a ghost, after all! – but the troubles of poor Jeremy are all of this world. His father’s barely coping with depression, his mother’s run off, and here’s this teenager who must feed his father and somehow find a way to pay off a loan before his home is repossessed. The residents of Never Better ostracize him at a time when he really needs support. It’s pretty awful at times. Towards the end of the book, things get really bad for the kid, and you wonder if he’s going to make it. I kept hoping for a happy fairy tale ending, and I’m not sure whether I got one.

I suppose one bright spot is that Jeremy does get a love interest in Ginger. She’s an interesting one. Friendly and outgoing, with a fondness for pranks and obvious desire for attention, the flirtatious girl seems to be a never-ending source of trouble. But is she really all that bad, or are her negative points played up by an overprotective Jacob Grimm? I’m still not sure. One thing shines in Ginger’s favor, though – throughout the story, she sticks by Jeremy’s side, even at risk to her own reputation.

Fans of Neil Gaiman should definitely pick up a copy of Far Far Away. McNeal brings the supernatural world of fairy tales into the modern world unflinchingly, layering on the darkness and the evil that is so often bleached from these tales.


5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Far Far Away , buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.



Peeking into the archives...today in:
2012: A Needle in the Right Hand of God by R. Howard Bloch
2011: Another little break for school…
2010: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
2009: Doodle of the Day: Twilight
2008: Monarchy Mania Giveaway Winners

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