Have you ever read something and thought to yourself ‘that’s exactly what I was thinking’?
I had several of those moments while reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
A summary of this book would probably be something like:
A man named Shadow is released from prison and, once he discovers that his wife is dead and there is no job waiting for him at home, he enters the employ of a disreputable fellow by the name of Mr. Wednesday. Chaos attempts to ensue via deific manipulation.
And, while that is an accurate, if short, summary of the novel, it is equivalent to saying that a sandwich has bread on two sides. Well, yeah. Sure. But what about all the important stuff?
Unfortunately, any further summary made by me will just be a poor retelling of the novel. I have already subjected several of my friends to these. I’ll spare you folks from the torture of my lengthy rambling summaries.
But seriously, I spent the whole novel marveling at the fact that Neil Gaiman had put into far more entertaining and coherent words what I’ve been contemplating for many years.
Some quick back story- I was raised very strict Roman Catholic and, when I realized that the administration of the church clearly didn’t think much of my type of people1 and decided that simply existing was a sin, I went on a bit of a mission of exploration into different religions. To be honest, I was more interested in the myths than the actual practice of the religions, but I familiarized myself with many of the world’s gods.
The idea that America is not a land where gods can live explains a lot of problems that I’ve had with religion as a whole. I’ve always thought religious people a bit weird because the primary sites of their faith are all hundreds of miles away, and I thought it extremely weird that, although we’re geographically close to the Caribbean and Mexico, those indigenous gods rarely, if ever, show up in the history of America’s beliefs.
I’ve heard that good poetry tells you what you already know. Sometimes I think novels work in the same way.
This is a good thought provoking and mentally engaging read. I’d recommend this one to anyone (over the age of 16), especially anyone interested in religion and American society as a whole.
1 People who don't conform to binary sexuality or gender. When the archbishop of your diocese demands that his letter to the parish about the sins of homosexuality be read aloud as a homily and you are forced to be in a room with people who are all nodding in agreement, you tend to lose faith in the system.