The Book Nook: The fight for America’s soul in ‘American Gods’

Mackenzie Bedford/Staff

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The book:

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman

Suggested for:

Anyone who is interested in various types of mythology and how they have been translated in modern America. Or anyone who can appreciate some worthwhile plot twists and confusing character development.

Clog rating:

4-Clogs

While mythology is an interesting subject for most people, especially students who have access to a plethora of history and literature classes, have you ever thought about how the old gods and goddesses would fare in modern America? In “American Gods,” Neil Gaiman tackles this idea. He not only places incarnations of old mythological gods right into the hoi polloi of present America but imagines what form new gods might take in modern society and how the two sides may have to fight for the very soul of America. While Gaiman is most famously known for his short stories, like the haunting children’s tale “Coraline,” this book is his fourth full-length novel and absolutely does not fail to grab your attention and keep it throughout the nearly 600 pages.

The story follows Shadow, a recently released ex-con who finds himself out of jail with nowhere in particular to go and no one to see. His wife and best friend have recently died, and as a result, Shadow finds himself a bit lost and confused. Enter Mr. Wednesday, who initially comes off as the creepy old dude whom you desperately hope not to sit next to on your flight but then almost immediately ramps up the creeper-ing by knowing intimate details about Shadow’s life. As hard as Shadow tries to turn down the impetuous job offer that Wednesday offers him, he eventually gives in when he remembers that he literally has nothing better to do — so why not become the bodyguard/errand boy for a seemingly omniscient old conman once he buys you a drink?

Dispersed throughout the book, usually falling at the end of a chapter, are narratives detailing the old and mostly forgotten gods. There is a glimpse into what the Queen of Sheba is up to and how fairies and pixies made their way across the pond. The most memorable for us was the tale of a Middle Eastern man who meets an ifrit, or jinn, and proceeds to have an illicit sex scene with him, which then seems to transform him into an ifrit as well.

Without wanting to spoil the insane twists and turns that the story takes, we will tell you that it is worth your time. It intricately interweaves myths and gods from various cultures around the world with hilarious yet frightening incarnations of the values that are worshiped in our modern society — like money, media and technology. The story manages to satirically present the ridiculousness of what our society holds dear while still keeping the reader interested and not alienated. “American Gods” will keep you on your toes until the very end and teach you that you should never take a job from an old man in a bar just because you don’t have anything better to do.

Contact Mackenzie Bedford at [email protected]