On Books: A View of America

The Book: American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Some books are in the back of your mind for a long time, telling you you should read them, telling you to look for them, to find them, and snatch them up when you do. American Gods was such a book for me. I didn’t go out on a specific mission to find it, but in every used bookstore and thrift shop I went to, my eye was searching.  Finally, I bought it new from a bookstore down the street, having remembered I wanted it while I was searching for a friend’s birthday gift.

American Gods follows Shadow Moon, a man who has just been released from prison only to find that his wife has died in a car accident and that he is now being recruited by the mysterious ‘Mr. Wednesday’. What follows is a journey that goes through an America filled with gods and goddesses and leads up to a war between the new gods and the old.

Now, the novel takes a while to get off to its plot. Gaiman is a world builder, so it might seem at first that the story is disjointed or episodic in nature. However, once the reader gets past this, he/she is thrown into an epic display of imagination. The story is gritty, dark, and tinged with humor. It takes a good hard look at America and displays an essence of it that many people do not see or want to see.

Gaiman’s writing is at times a bit clunky in the novel, but for the most part his prose is well put together, and there are a few passages that are simply beautiful. I personally enjoyed the interludes (or “Coming to America” stories) that were interspersed throughout the book and described how different gods and goddesses arrived in the United States. It really showed how the US is a conglomeration of many different and ever-changing peoples and beliefs, and that, though they may not get along, they can work together when it is necessary.

The book definitely dealt with a lot of heavy topics that are not easy to read about – loss, death, religion. Because of this, it was start and stop for me at the beginning due to my own personal anxieties. However, working through them with the book (and with Shadow) was worth it in the end. American Gods now has a place of honor amongst​ my favorite novels.

Overall score: 5/5 stars

-MC

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