I finished reading American Gods this weekend, and it’s taken me three days to wrap my head around it. It’s not my typical reading material – you can generally find me square in front of a young adult fantasy novel – but Emer kept squealing about it, and it’s by Neil Gaiman, fer Pete’s sake.
Gaiman is one of those talented writers you really, really want to hate. I mean, really. He’s just so.dang.good. American Gods has plot, sure, and great characters. But the craft, people. His craft is near perfection. It is the cherry on top of an epic sundae of deliciousness. It is a glory to behold.
And yet… (am I even allowed to say this?*) I got bored in the middle. Technically it was somewhere between Disk 3 and Disk 10. Not exactly the middle when there are 19 disks, but it felt like the middle of the story. I digress.
Why did I get bored? Well, the plot meanders. It’s a travel book first and a fantasy second, and that mix just didn’t ring my bell. It’s also enormous, so the plot pieces that are there can be difficult to connect before you get to the very end. I felt a little lost trying to give meaning to the seemingly random events that didn’t spark my fancy.
On the other hand – and this shows just how good Gaiman is – when you reach the end, your suspicions are confirmed, and Shadow, the protagonist, finally figures everything out, it’s like climbing up into the light after a year underground. When I reached the epilogue and saw how the breadcrumbs had led to those final moments, I did feel satisfied with the ending. I may not adore the way the book got from A to Z, but I can appreciate the views I glimpsed on the way there.
I definitely recommend American Gods to lovers of fantasy and road trip novels**. It’s beautifully written and worth the journey.
Michelle enjoyed her trip into books for grown ups, but she's ready for some new YA reads. You should suggest something to her!
*Please don’t kill me, Emer.
**FYI for younger readers and parents…there are a few sex scenes (which I honestly found unnecessary/unwarranted, but that’s another talk altogether). This book does not pull its punches – expect real life, with very real, intense people. That means cursing and sex and other things that not everyone is ready to read.