I had a soft corner for Neil Gaiman, even before I read a single one of his books. This was largely due to Coraline and Stardust, both movies I loved. I picked up Norse Mythology last year, and devoured it. Of course I will review that book separately, but suffice it to say, I was hooked onto Gaiman.
I hadn’t planned on reading [buying] any more of his work in the near future, but I did Instagram a picture of Norse Mythology. The next thing I knew, a friend was asking for my address, and my copy of American Gods landed on my doorstep the next day.
So there were two reasons I was excited to read this: one is that it is by Neil Gaiman, whose magic realism is tremendously exciting, but more importantly, it was a gift from a much-loved friend, just because.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Story: Shadow Moon is in prison, but he is due to be released by the end of the week. He is looking forward to stitching his life back together again, with his beloved wife Laura.
Only, she dies in a car crash a few days before his sentence is up, and he is released early. He stumbles towards home in a daze, disbelieving and shell-shocked. On his way there, he is seated beside a man in a suit, who offers him a job. Shadow initially turns him down, but later on accepts once he realises that his life as he knows it is irrevocably changed.
The story follows Shadow’s incredible journey with Mr. Wednesday, as the man in the suit calls himself.
There are also side plots that I found unexpected, but enjoyed nevertheless.
Writing: The writing is fluid and unpredictable. I reckon it has much to do with the the changes in character viewpoints. Sometimes you are in Shadow’s skin; others there is the narrator describing the story arcs dispassionately. Either way, the story is a rambling one, and yet manages to grip without faltering once. There isn’t a boring sentence in this book, and that is a huge testament to the consummate skill of Gaiman’s pen.
Characters: Bizarre characters, but likeable in their own ways nonetheless. There is a vulnerability, a weariness, and finally a diminished persona of each of the gods that is ultimately very endearing. You find yourself rooting for them to triumph over their antagonists. I would like to write more, but there is a very real danger that I will give up some of the intrigue built so carefully into the narrative.
Pace: Ripping pace overall. There is much momentum in the story, but it does have quiet moments too. The stunning part is that even the slower portions make for excellent reading, because they are deftly used to fill in knowledge gaps about the characters or their situations.
Conclusion: An incredible, dizzying modern fairytale with all the grit of frontier America. I still have many unanswered questions, some of which I can’t even formulate and register just an overall sense of confusion. The novel isn’t for someone literal who wants all their answers laid out in front of them [me], but someone who is open to loose threads that one fills in on one’s own. Impeccable in every other way, the only drawback for me was the grittiness. I am not a fan of grit.
PS: My copy came bundled with Monarch of the Glen, which is a novella with Shadow in it. Goodreads indicated it was a separate book, so I had to increase my 2018 Reading Challenge to account for it. Compulsive much? Sigh.