Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A book based on mythology
Thoughts: In most readers’ lives, there comes an author or two that just stick. They get under your skin and their brand of storytelling reaches into you and takes hold. For me, one of those authors is Neil Gaiman. I love him. I love his children’s stories, I love his novels, I love his episode of Doctor Who. There is just something magical about him and the way he weaves a tale. He is able to make horror beautiful and beautiful things horrible scary. Although I don’t like horror movies per se, I love a little touch of the macabre in my reading. I also have discovered that as a reader, I respond not only to strong characters and a plot driven narrative, but I also need something…different. Something interesting. I need to be intrigued by a concept or a mystery to keep going. A typical beach read is great now and then, but on the whole, it won’t do it for me.
Neil Gaiman is not a beach read author. This is why I love him.
I’ve read many of his books, but American Gods for some reason alluded me. It’s been on my to-read list for years and on my Kindle for almost as long, but I just never picked it up. Finally, I decided I needed to dive into this one. My best friend had been talking about it for years and I was suuuuper pregnant in July and in need of something exciting to help me get through those days where I was too hot to move. I’m also a mythology junky and the fact that it heavily featured Gods from the mythology of many different cultures was absolutely a draw.
It was a crazy good read.
American Gods tells the story of Shadow. He is recently released from prison and is looking forward to restarting his life with his wife, Laura. He has a job lined up as a personal trainer at his best friend’s gym and just wants to keep his head down and enjoy what time he has left on this earth.
Needless to say, he doesn’t get what he wants.
He finds out pretty quickly that both his wife and his best friend have been killed in a car crash. All the plans he had post incarceration are trashed. He has nothing to go home to. While out at a bar prior to his wife’s funeral, he meets a man named Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job. After a bit of convincing, he accepts. He’ll drive and be a bit of a bodyguard type while Mr. Wednesday tries to gather old friends and acquaintances for some kind of meeting. Along the way, we meet interesting characters and we get the feeling that Mr. Wednesday is not exactly who he says he is.
It is a sprawling exciting epic that takes place all over the United States. Ultimately, we find out that Shadow is at the center of a massive war between Gods of the Old World and the emerging Gods of technology and progress. As we ramp up to the final battle, Shadow attempts to figure out his place in the world and why he is in the middle of this war. By the end, many characters are killed off and there are some twists that make the wrap up incredibly satisfying.
Something I loved about this book is that I never knew what exactly would happen next. The trail was winding and long and exciting. His use of language is exquisite. The way he describes a tree, how a tear feels running down Laura’s face, the cut of ice water as it slices into Shadow’s torso, it gives me chills. It is the kind of writing that makes me want to write. He is immensely creative in his storytelling and while the path may take some effort to get through, it is like a relationship. When you are with the right person, it doesn’t feel like work and when it does, it is worth it. This book is work. But it is so so worth it.