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A Book We Love: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

June 3, 2013

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is a modern day fairy tale that we think will appeal equally to kids and adults who love smart, literary fiction, complete with intrigue, plot twists and great characters that you’ll remember long after you’ve finished reading.   We all love this book.  And it’s almost here!  On June 11th you can visit your local bookstore to pick up your own copy and see what all the fuss is about.

The adoration for Far Far Away has been building for some time now.  It started  in house early but quickly spread outside our walls.  Earlier this year we sent Tom McNeal on a pre-pub buzz tour with stops in New York, Detroit, Raleigh, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.  Then last month we hosted a “Buzz Call” with the author and a handful of  booksellers representing various indie bookstores from around the country.   The response has been overwhelming and unanimous: everyone loves Far Far Away (and Tom)!

Today we want to share some of the rave reviews we have been getting from the indie bookselling community.  These folks read tons of really good books so you can be sure that endorsements this strong mean Far Far Away is really something special.

Rarely do I fall this hard for a book. But I’ve fallen off the bus for this one.

In Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away, Jacob Grimm, the more serious and scholarly-minded of the famous brothers, is one of a small number of specters who roam the Earth, living in the Zwischenraum — the space between — due to “the thing undone.” In his travels he came upon and remained for several years with Jeremy Johnson Johnson, a young boy who had the rare ability to hear and communicate with such ghosts. Using Jacob as the narrator, Tom McNeal tells a modern day tale of a fifteen-year-old through the voice of both a (mostly) wise and knowledgeable old man. This proves to be a wonderful literary device.

Jeremy lives in a broken home in a small town in the northern Great Plains — the kind of place where little occurs and everyone seemingly knows everyone else’s business — a setting similar to some of McNeal’s adult novels. With Jacob’s spirit, Jeremy goes off on an adventure to seek his fortune and eventually finds himself in a very dark Grimm’s fairy tale of his own.

McNeal is in no hurry to rush the plot. He has two superb likable but flawed central characters to develop along with numerous secondary ones — most notably Jeremy’s friend, Ginger, and a Swedish baker who serves seemingly magical cakes. Minor characters are treated generously by McNeal as well, and feel fully-dimensional.

There is so, so much to recommend about Far Far Away. The writing is superb. It has a great sense of place. One learns much about the Grimm brothers and a smattering of northern European history. There’s the achingly difficult navigation of a first love, a mystery, friendship, unmitigated evil, baking, and, of course, fairy tales.

This is perhaps the finest children’s novel since Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Far Far Away is being marketed as YA fiction. I would recommend it to readers as young as perhaps eleven. (The evil involved is disturbing.) Jeremy Johnson Johnson’s friend is a strong female character, so the book should appeal to both boys and girls. Given the quality of the writing, the age of the narrator, and a recurring theme within the novel of life’s regrets, there is considerable crossover appeal to adults.

— Dave Shallenberger, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Georgia.

“Fantastic! Haunting stay up all night page turner!” —Caitlin Baker, University Bookstore, Seattle, WA

“Ever since Jeremy Johnson Johnson admitted that he could hear voices, the townspeople have treated him as an outsider. So life has been hard, but Jeremy does have a companion — the voice of Jacob Grimm, one half of the Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy and protects him from the evil in the world. When Ginger Boultinghouse becomes interested in Jeremy, things start to happen that Jacob may or may not be able to stop. Narrated by Jacob, this book was lovely and thrilling at the same time — I cannot wait to talk about it!”— Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

“I just finished Far, Far Away.  I had tears and I was hugging the book.  Tears are not uncommon, but I don’t usually hug a book when I’m finished.  I LOVED it.  Can’t wait to put into reader’s hands.” — Lisa Baudoin, Books & Co, Oconomowoc, WI

We hope you have a chance to fall in love with Far Far Away like so many others have already!  If you want to hear Tom McNeal talk about how he came to write Far Far Away, among other things, you can check out this cool Skype interview he did with members of Little Shop of Stories’ Not So YA Book Club in Decatur, Georgia.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2013 9:03 am

    Smart, literary fiction for kids and adults? I’m reading this one!


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