I knew coming into American Gods, it was going to be a different type of book than I had read before. It was not only different, but challenging and weird, though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good read. The protagonist, Shadow, is released from jail days early to attend his wife’s funeral and begins a surreal journey across America physically and metaphysically as a bodyguard to Mr. Wednesday. Throughout this journey Shadow meets gods both ancient, or at least an American incarnation, and modern as his employer attempts to rally the older gods to rise up and challenge the newcomers. Given his special relationship to Wednesday, Shadow is targeted by what seem to be forces in the government and thus has to hide away in the small town of Lakeside. And throughout all of this Shadow must come to terms with his wife’s death, though she keeps on visiting in various locations in the flesh.
The structure of the book mainly followed Shadow who, like the reader, is learning that the gods of past are real and very much in the now though because of innate privacy the reader doesn’t learn much about Shadow as a person throughout the book. Yes, we learn things about Shadow but after spending almost 600 pages that his character dominates, we really don’t know him. While some could consider this a flaw, personally I thought it was a strength of the novel. At the end of some chapters Gaiman, through the writing of Mr. Ibis, describes how gods arrived in America through the travels of their believers. Throughout the book there are several “interesting” scenes which might be disturbing for some readers or just frankly too weird for them. I’ll be honest some of them were pretty out there, but knowing what I was getting into I was able to bare them.
After finishing the book, I was glad to have spent the time I did reading it and there is no other thing I can say to recommend it. But I’m going to paraphrase a statement I made earlier: it’s different, challenging, and weird but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.