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Review: American Gods

american godsTitle: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction

Two Sentence Summary: Shadow gets out of prison only to find out his wife has been killed. On his way home for his funeral he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job as his assistant — job that turns out to be more mythic and mysterious than Shadow imagined.

Two Sentence Review: I’m glad I gave this book another chance because I liked it much better than when I tried to read it last summer. However, parts of the story were confusing, and I’m not sure the book wrapped everything up to my satisfaction.

Grade: 87/100

Review: I’m not going to do a summary of this book because I feel like everyone already sort of knows what it’s about — if you don’t, the read this summary from Amazon to catch up. Got it? Good!

American Gods was the book readers voted for me to read in June (yeah, I’m behind on reviews). As such, I also solicited questions from readers about the book to use in my review. Here goes!

Sherrie (Just Books) asked “Is Mr. Wednesday an angel helping Shadow? or is he really a God?”

Mr. Wednesday is a god — he’s an incarnation of Odin the All-Father and spends the book trying to recruit the Old Gods to help him wage a war against the New Gods. Far from helping Shadow, Mr. Wednesday seems to make things worse for him all the time, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Memory (Stella Matutina) asked “How did Shadow’s personality affect the way you related to American Gods? What did you think of the short stories Gaiman included?”

I liked Shadow a lot, actually. He’s very withdrawn, quiet, but still opinionated. He goes with the flow most of the time, but can be spurred into action when he’s needed. He’s also a lot smarter than the other characters give him credit for. I liked seeing the way he came into himself during the story.

Throughout the narrative, Gaiman threw in short stories that were, I think, stories of how the other Old Gods came to America and what happened to them. I found the short stories entertaining but I didn’t always see how they fit back with the bigger narrative arc — the potential battle of the gods. But, maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

Lu (Regular Rumination) asked “What did you think about the flow of the story? Did you think it was awkward? Did it make sense with the type of story, or did it jump around too much?”

At first the jumping (from the big narrative to the short stories) was a little distracting, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Otherwise, I didn’t feel like the story flowed awkwardly because it followed Shadow so much. I mean, it was difficult to sense what was going on because Shadow didn’t really know everything and we just got his perspective, but I think that’s sort of the point — we figure out what is happening along with Shadow.

Fyrefly (Fyrefly’s Book Blog) asked “Which Gods did you find the most interesting? Were there any Gods you were surprised to see included, or excluded?”

I liked the two gods who were working as undertakers — Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel. I thought turning Egyptian gods of death and the afterlife (I think) into undertakers is a funny way of portraying them. I’m not that familiar with a lot of the gods that were in this book — I’m more of a Greek and Roman gods person myself — so I can’t say I was surprised by the choices Gaiman made of gods to include or exclude.

Louise (Lou’s Pages) asked “Do you think a person interested in Americana would like American Gods?”

Yes, aboslutely. In addition to the gods, a number of American folk heroes like Johnny Appleseed show up in the book which is amusing. But on a more thematic level, I think the book tries to look at the majesty and importance of some of the weird things in America — the House on the Rock, for example — and give them a sense of importance or significance. I think people who like Americana will appreciate that.

Care (Care’s Online Book Club) asked “How well does the cover relate or support the story?”

Ummm… well, there’s the road, which makes sense since Shadow and Mr. Wednesday do a ton of driving all over the place. And the lightening implies violence, plus lightening always reminds me of gods because of Zeus on Mount Olympus (even if he’s not in the book). Plus, the cover gives me a sense of alone-ness, which is a pretty sharp feeling throughout the book.

Jodie (Book Gazing) asked “American Gods often sounds like Neil Gaiman’s masterwork – was this your favorite book by him (or if you hven’t read anything else by him do you think it is an uber-amazing book?)”

I’m not sure if it’s my favorite or not. The only other Gaiman I’ve finished is Stardust, which I liked. I think American Gods is much more complicated than Stardust, but I’m not sure they compare otherwise. I wouldn’t say American Gods is amazing, but it is a book you want to keep reading once you get into it.

One note on the ending… the book takes a lot time to get to where it’s going, but then the point from where it got to until the end was really abrupt. I wanted more closure than I got. Not necessarily wrapping things up neatly, just more time for the story to wind down. Sorry for being vague, but I don’t want spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book yet.

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Care August 13, 2009, 8:10 am

    I didn’t really read this review because I don’t want to know much (and really, I shouldn’t care since I don’t think it will be anytime soon that I finally read this – but I intend to) but I asked the Q I asked because I’m sure I read a discussion about the best cover for this book.
    I personally love it when the cover is true to the story.

  • Jenny August 13, 2009, 9:01 am

    I had the same problems you did with this book – so don’t feel bad! It’s not just you! Of all Neil Gaiman’s books, I find this one the most difficult; although I like it A LOT, it’s probably the one I reread least frequently. You didn’t mention Mr. Nancy, but there’s another whole book about his sons, which is completely different in every way possible, called Anansi Boys. It’s a really fun, funny book.

  • bermudaonion August 13, 2009, 11:34 am

    Wow, that does sound like a complicated book – I wonder if I’d understand it.

  • Susan August 13, 2009, 6:36 pm

    This was the first book by him that I read – novel, I mean. I read Smoke and Mirrors first, which I really enjoyed. American Gods was unlike anything I’ve read before or since, like almost anything he writes! If I recall correctly (and I read American Gods several years ago), I liked the premise of the novel very much, and like you, I liked the Egyptian gods/undertakers the best – there was such a melancholy about that whole section, I think I cried reading it – and also, when he discovers about Odin, and who he himself is – I found that moving. Its’ hard to categorize this book, and I know I have to reread it again!

    I really enjoyed your review, it helped me recall some of the book, and think about it again. Do try Neverwhere and Coraline – they are both brilliant.

  • softdrink August 13, 2009, 6:36 pm

    This remains my favorite Gaiman. For dome reason I found his personification of all the gods interesting and I liked puzzling out who they were supposed to be. There’s some pretty obscure gods hidden in there.

  • Michelle August 14, 2009, 3:07 am

    I think you did a great job reviewing this book! I read the book earlier this year (I think. time alludes me) and didn’t even consider reviewing it as it just feels too complicated and large to cover.