Sunday 12 April 2020

Why I Both Liked and Disliked American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: March 4th, 2005
Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the kind of America. 

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a story of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. 

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what - and who - it finds there ...


I am going to be very honest and say that I finished reading American Gods in October of 2018. 2018!?! As in over a year ago. 

I put off writing this review partly because I wanted to watch the TV series and do a comparison, but mostly because I was highly confused about how I felt about the read overall. I struggled with whether I wanted to write a review as well as how to write one, but ultimately felt that American Gods is worth talking about to hear what others think about it and encourage people to pick it up as well! 

You’d be hard pressed to find a novel by Neil Gaiman that is not well written. Gaiman has a way with his words, being able to bring to life rich and in-depth characters alongside immersive storylines. I flew through 3/4 of American Gods, engrossed with Shadow’s journey as he transitions from prison life to reality and becomes involved with Mr Wednesday. It was fascinating. That’s the easiest way to explain it. It was like I had been invited into this exclusive, secretive world and the longer I was there the more addicted I became and wanted to be a part of it. A part of me wanted Shadow to leave as he had already dealt with so much in his life, and another part didn’t wanted to continue to see what he got up to so it felt somewhat like a guilty pleasure. It feels weird describing my reading experience as such but it is very much true. Beyond just Shadow and Mr Wednesday’s journey, Gaiman draws on mythological legends of gods that had been previously idolised to create a plot with a fantasy element to it. I found it made the story much more interesting and I liked that I was being educated on a topic that I would never have looked into myself.

Not only was I fully captivated by the storyline, I also appreciated how much effort Gaiman put into creating his characters to make them as realistic and relatable as possible. The characteristics had traits that any normal human being would, not quite black or white. When the different characters are first presented, you easily judge them as good or bad straightaway but those lines begin to blur as you continue to read about them. This allowed the story to explore questions of what is right and wrong, whether behaviours and actions can be excused if the intention is deemed right or good and if good can and should always defeat evil. 

The struggle I had with American Gods was when I reached the last quarter. It really felt like I had hit a brick wall and it took me 2-3 months to really drag myself to the end. This isn’t to discredit the entire novel. If anything, I think it came down to my own reading experience as the plot line became more complicated and I found myself less motivated to endure it. The last quarter really made me realise I had to pay attention and rely on my memory of what had happened previously and the different characters that were introduced. No matter when they were involved in the story, at the end they still had some type of impact and it really came down to myself, as a reader, to try and remember who they were and what relations they had to the Shadow and the story itself. It really didn’t help that I kept picking up and putting down the book, because it made it harder to remember what had happened a few pages back and which characters were which. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I found it hard to finish the book and that ruined my overall reading experience, hence why I couldn’t decide if I liked American Gods or not. Also, I was slightly disappointed in myself for not enduring until the end and read the book within a timely manner. However, not that I have had time to reflect, I can honestly say that American Gods is a story that I would 100% immerse myself back in and see if my initial thoughts will change. 

I love a thought-provoking and memorable read, and Gaiman delivers that with this book. For those who have watched the show or plan to, maybe it will make it easier to follow along, in terms of the characters. Just make sure you’re ready to pay attention and you’ll be treated to a creative and captivating story that is bound to make an impression on you. 

Also, I just wanted to share that this is my favourite passage from the entire book:

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