Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Harper Perennials
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
Number of pages: 588
First line: Shadow had done three years in prison.
Goodreads blurb: Shadow gets out of prison early when his wife is killed in a car crash. At a loss, he takes up with a mysterious character called Wednesday, who is much more than he appears. In fact, Wednesday is an old god, once known as Odin the All-father, who is roaming America rounding up his forgotten fellows in preparation for an epic battle against the upstart deities of the Internet, credit cards, television, and all that is wired. Shadow agrees to help Wednesday, and they whirl through a psycho-spiritual storm that becomes all too real in its manifestations. For instance, Shadow’s dead wife Laura keeps showing up, and not just as a ghost – the difficulty of their continuing relationship is by turns grim and darkly funny, just like the rest of the book.
Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. Shadow’s road story is the heart of the novel, and it’s here that Gaiman offers up the details that make this such a cinematic book–the distinctly American foods and diversions, the bizarre roadside attractions, the decrepit gods reduced to shell games and prostitution. “This is a bad land for Gods,” says Shadow.
I tried reading American Gods a few years ago, and couldn’t make it past chapter one. Past one particular scene in chapter one, actually, a scene that still makes my skin crawl and gives me the shudders. Fortunately, enough people kept telling me how wonderful this book is, and my past history with Gaiman’s work was all positive, so I got past my creepy-crawlies and put it on the list for the challenge.
First of all, Gaiman is a master storyteller. He knows how to paint with his words, to draw you into the scene in a way that is almost cinematic. I could see the scenes as they played out (one of the reasons chapter one was so difficult for me!), and felt like I could hear the characters and sense what they were sensing. Gaiman’s characters are so unique and varied; the man must be a champion-level people-watcher. I can just imagine him taking bits and pieces from the people in his life and molding them into these exquisitely crafted characters.
Shadow is an enigma, a difficult character to grasp. He’s quite slippery, and yet honorable in his own way. He experiences the first portion of the book almost as an observer, and then is drawn into the intrigues and drama of the other characters until he becomes a vital participant.
The scope of this story is immense, and the idea of America being a place of left-over gods, those brought over from the Old World in the minds and hearts of immigrants, is fascinating. And then the new gods – the gods of media, fame, wealth, entertainment – how much they demonstrate the obsessions of the American people. This is truly a saga, a large book in the best sense of the word. I am so very glad I gave it a second chance.
If you have ever reviewed American Gods, feel free to leave the link below.