Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 6-19-01
Genre: Adult fiction, Fantasy, Mythology
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.
I’m not sure how to review this book. I somehow managed to slog my way through all almost-500 pages of this hefty novel and now I’m at a loss for words. My boyfriend recently read this and then convinced me that I “needed to read it,” as it had quickly became one of his all-time favorite reads. So, of course, being the dutiful and book-obsessed girlfriend that I am, I agreed. Plus, it was about time I read a Gaiman book, right? Well…I don’t know. Maybe my boyfriend and I just aren’t compatible when it comes to literature, but I could not get into this. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’d loved it so much, I probably would’ve decided to DNF it after about 100 pages.
The beginning of this story had so much promise. Shadow was interesting and Wednesday was mysterious. What’s going to happen with these characters? Where’s the story going? But then it went…nowhere. Although extremely well-written, this book meanders aimlessly around and doesn’t seem to have much of a plot or a point. And, maybe it’s just me, but it really bothers me when books do that. I want to be able to, at least sort of see where the book is headed. I want to have a direction, I don’t want it just to skitter around like a schizophrenic, polytheistic freak of nature.
I spent this entire book in a near-constant state of utter confusion. The characters are blasé and emotionless, people are rising from the dead, perspectives are switching to random people like a British outlaw attacked by a leprechaun and a woman who can somehow swallow people with her vagina. I mean….WHAT?!
I want to believe that Gaiman is somehow a genius that I’m just not smart enough to “get.” But I majored in English Lit and I really tried to get into this book, so I have a bad feeling that it isn’t just me. In the end, things started to make a little more sense, but it was still all kind of pointless. When you’re writing a book entitled American Gods, it seems to me that your book should probably mean something. There should be a moral, a closing argument, or at least a punchline. But I snapped this book shut for the last time feeling more lost than ever. I’d hoped that the last few chapters would wrap it up in a way where everything would suddenly make sense. But nothing ever made sense, and I’m left wondering about the identity of certain characters, the state of the universe, and whether or not certain people are actually alive or not. And completely without an idea of what Gaiman was trying to get across with this…book.
Unfortunately, American Gods just wasn’t for me. And I’m honestly starting to wonder if the people who’ve given this book obscenely high ratings are just bibliophilic narcissists who are all pretending that they “got it” while I’m still sitting here scratching my head. But maybe the truth is that there is some underlying story behind this novel that I just couldn’t see through all the fuzz. I’m willing to give Gaiman another chance, but I think I’ll be switching to his YA fiction instead, as this was obviously way over my head.