Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: American Gods
Publication Info: New York : W. Morrow, c2001.
Books Read by the Same Author:
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
- The Graveyard Book
- The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Shadow is released early from prison when his wife and boss die in a car crash. With no future ahead of him, Shadow accepts a job from the shady Mr. Wednesday. I don’t expect it’s a huge spoiler that Mr. Wednesday is actually an incarnation of the god Odin who ushers Shadow into the worlds where the gods of antiquity have fallen on hard times in competition with the modern “gods” of technology, drugs, and celebrity. Gaiman’s characterization is well-done as he introduces many complex figures of gods in human form. I also like how places that Americans value like roadside attractions become temples and places of power. I am curious though why Gaiman chose to ignore the God of Abraham and the many churches, synagogues & mosques as a rival (or even the questionable “gods” of televangelists and religious extremists). Shadow is true to his name in that he often seems to have no identity, following Mr. Wednesday with seemingly no good reason, but then there are moments of compassion where his humanity shines through and sets him apart from his godly companions and leads to a satisfying conclusion.
I have to admit that this book was a struggle to read and had it not been for Gaiman’s reputation and that I was reading this for a book group, I may have given up. In fact the rest of my book group hated this book and we haven’t met since. Although this is not something I would usually recommend, if you find yourself struggling through the early pages of the book, just read a summary online and skip ahead to page 150. It gets much better from there on.