Stories and myths form a framework upon which a culture might grow, but sustaining belief in the figures presented in those stories can be difficult, as seen in American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Shadow is set to get out of prison and it’s after his release that his life gets taken on a wild ride. His wife dies in a car accident shortly before he’s due to be released, which derails the plans he has for the rest of his life as a newly free man, and he meets a mysterious man on the plane home, Mr. Wednesday, who persistently offers him a job. After finally accepting the job offered to him, Shadow meets many of Mr. Wednesday’s odd associates, who seem strange to Shadow and who will play a large role in Shadow’s life as the battle that has been slowly brewing unfolds in earnest.
Entertaining and mildly thought-provoking, this story demonstrates the shift in beliefs and values that have taken place across American culture as society becomes more homogenized from its various origins. Incorporating a wide variety of gods worshiped across continents and time, this narrative demonstrates how interconnected the world is and the common values shared among its inhabitants. While I understand the purpose behind the snippets of how the gods were either brought to or regarded in America throughout the years, it was a little jarring from the main narrative to include them as they rarely included characters we had already met or would meet soon. I am left questioning if the versions of the gods present in America were the only versions of the gods “living” or if there were other versions of them simultaneously in other countries where belief in them was either stronger or weaker – as evidenced by Odin’s various appearances throughout the novel.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.