Title: American Gods
Series: American Gods, #1
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 21st, 2011 (originally published July 5th, 2001)
Length: 635 pages | 19 hours 42 minutes
Source: Gifted by Kait of Scintillating Reads
Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. Along the way Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path.
This is one of the VERY few re-reads of my life. The first time I read American Gods, I was trying to impress a boy, who had recommended it to me. I was a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Stardust, but that was about it. This story has a different, more vague and encompassing feel. At the time, I liked it but I don’t recall much other than this impression of roadside attraction oddities.
This time around, whether from my expanded wisdom with age or freedom to experience it without answering to anyone, I enjoyed it. I enjoy the multiple story-within-a-story (not just the Coming to America blurbs, which are fascinating and fun- I love being reminded that our view of history is always narrow-minded and exclusive- but the glimpses we get into the ongoing narrative of side characters’ lives). And, of course, Shadow is fantastic. The reader, and the character, don’t know if he’s going by gut instinct, having sheer luck, or tapping into some deeper wisdom. Certainly, not all of his decisions are good. But he makes enough moral ones, or ones whose heart is rooted in compassion and fairness and intelligence, that he’s a sympathetic character.
The level of folklore and mythology research Gaiman did before writing this must’ve been profound. It seems like a lot of cultures are represented (certainly more than I’m familiar with), although my own Greek pantheon is noticeably missing. I had no idea Anansi Boys is something like a sequel, so now I have to read that.
This book is a genre blender, so if you’re in the mood for something bizarre but entertaining and filled with sly wisdom, I definitely recommend it.