American Gods - by Neil Gaiman
American Gods

"a powerful message of belief in oneself and rejection of commercialism"


It's rare that I find a book that moves me as much as Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, but as I finished the 588 page book, I sat in a stunned silence for the first few moments and took in its genius. Quietly I said to myself, "I have just finished the best book in the world." Looking back, I realize this may have been hyperbole, but I still classify American Gods as one of the best books of 21st century. Neil Gaiman sends out a powerful message of belief in oneself and warns us against the dangers of commercialism.

Thirty-two-year-old Shadow is expecting to return to his wife and job when he  is released from jail, but he discovers his wife and best friend have died in a horrible accident. On his plane ride home for the funeral, he meets a cryptic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday.  Mr. Wednesday offers him a job, as a sort of body-guard/runner -boy.  Wednesday then throws Shadow into a world where the new gods of pop culture replace old gods and where the old gods plan to go out with a bang.

Gaiman's believable characters add to the success of the novel. The reader finds it easy to hate them some of the time - but impossible to hate them all of the time. His characters are deep, all accompanied with their own beliefs, convictions, problems and morals.  Most importantly, they are memorable. Gaiman introduces them in such a way that when you see them again, even if it’s a hundred pages later, you remember them from a previous action.

If you love a strong plot, you won’t be able to tear your eyes from this novel. Gaiman is such a masterful storyteller and the plot for American Gods is pieced together so that every passage foreshadows a new twist later in the story. In this masterpiece, he introduces the idea that all gods are real, because humans believe in them. If humans do not believe in them then they lose power and eventually cease to exist.  Throughout history, people have believed that gods are all-powerful. He says they are omnipotent because of humans. It may be controversial, but there may be some truth behind his suggestion.

If you love a strong plot, you won’t be able to tear your eyes from this novel. Gaiman is such a masterful storyteller and the plot for American Gods is pieced together so that every passage foreshadows a new twist later in the story. In this masterpiece, he introduces the idea that all gods are real, because humans believe in them. If humans do not believe in them then they lose power and eventually cease to exist.  Throughout history, people have believed that gods are all-powerful. He says they are omnipotent because of humans. It may be controversial, but there may be some truth behind his suggestion.

Neil Gaiman is British but set the book in present day Wisconsin. He says he did not want to write about America as a real place but as a mythic place where gods migrated with their colonists. He says that once he had the idea for the novel, he had no choice.

I will warn you, American Gods is an adult book with some adult situations and strong language, and if you dislike reading either, then this may not be a best choice.  Overall, reading American Gods is an enjoyable experience. Give it a try next time you are at your bookstore and you will see what I mean.

   - Arianne K.