The “I’ve Always Meant to Read That Book!” Challenge: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

americangods3Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
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.


This entry was posted in fantasy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The “I’ve Always Meant to Read That Book!” Challenge: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  1. BermudaOnion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I listened to this book and struggle with it even though it had an outstanding cast of narrators. I think it was just too fantastical for me.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I can see where it would be difficult for anyone who doesn’t love fantasy.

  2. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12
    says:

    I read American Gods for the first time back in 2007 and it didn’t really click for me. I re-read it last year after falling in love with Gaiman’s other work and ended up loving it. There’s definitely some odd stuff, but like you said, it’s the incredible story telling that gets you in the end!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – yes, the story is simply amazing. I am planning to read Anansi Boys again very soon, since it is set in the same world. I listened to it on audio a few years back and really enjoyed it – and now I’ll know more about the back story.

  3. It has been years since I read this book (but I linked my review anyway), and so my memory of this book is a bit fuzzy in terms of detail. I remember enjoying it quite a bit though. It was my first Gaiman book and what an introduction it was!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – It makes me want to reread more of his work – especially Neverwhere.

  4. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    Because I’ve read so many mixed reviews, I didn’t read this one — but I love Gaiman, so I really should give it a try.

  5. Sheila (Book JOurney)
    Twitter: bookjourney
    says:

    I have actually read little Gaiman… I need to get into more of his books.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sheila – you definitely should! have you read Neverwhere? It’s my favorite.

  6. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – August 10, 2014 | BOOKS AND MOVIES