Summary and book reviews of American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

By Neil Gaiman

American Gods
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2001,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2002,
    608 pages.

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Book Summary

The storm was coming....

Shadow spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his scheduled release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.

On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A self-styled grifter and rogue, Wednesday offers Shadow a job. And Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts.

But working for the enigmatic Wednesday is not without its price, and Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road trip and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know more about Shadow than he himself does.

Shadow will learn that the past does not die, that everyone, including his late wife, had secrets, and that the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined.

All around them a storm of epic proportions threatens to break. Soon Shadow and Wednesday will be swept up into a conflict as old as humanity itself. For beneath the placid surface of everyday life a war is being fought -- and the prize is the very soul of America.

As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, this work of literary magic will haunt the reader far beyond the final page.

Chapter One

The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, on the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgment.
- The American Joe Miller's Jest Book

Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.

The best thing - in Shadow's opinion, perhaps the only good thing - about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he'd plunged as low as he could plunge and he'd hit bottom. He didn't worry that the man was going to get hurt, because the man had got him. He was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.

It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Where is Shadow at the beginning of American Gods? Where is he at the end? Of the many characters he encounters along the way, which did you find most memorable? What did you make of Shadow's obsession with coin tricks? How did you interpret his determination to participate in the vigil for Wednesday?
     
  2. How does Laura die? Were you surprised by what happens at her funeral? How does she come to Shadow's aid? What explains the phenomenon of her persistence in the world of the living? How does Shadow release her from her state of limbo?
     
  3. How would you describe Wednesday? How does he interact with Shadow at the start of the book? Did you find any of his grifter schemes especially ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Titans clash, but with more fuss than fury in this fantasy demi-epic from the author of Neverwhere. Even when he isn't in top form, Gaiman, creator of the acclaimed Sandman comics series, trumps many storytellers.

Library Journal

Gaiman explores the vast and bloody landscape of myths and legends where the gods of yore and the neoteric gods of now conflict in modern-day America.... There's a nice plot twist in the end, and the fascinating subject matter and impressive mythic scope are handled creatively and expertly. Gaiman is an exemplary short story writer, but his ventures into novels are also compellingly imaginative. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Jonathan Carroll
American Gods is some kind of miracle. Gaiman has managed to tell the tallest of tales in the most heartrending and believable fashion, despite the story's truly mythic scale. It is an important, essential book. As Pablo Neruda once said of another world-class novel, not to read it is the same as never having tasted an orange.

Author Blurb Jane Lindskold, author of Changer
American Gods is like a fast run downhill through a maze -- both exhilarating and twisted. In it, Gaiman introduces a world where the dead past is all too alive, where gods struggle to keep a toehold on existence, and where reality's backstage is only a carousel ride away.

Reader Reviews
Steven Richardson

Half-assed book.
American Gods starts off when the main character, Shadow, gets out of jail to receive news that his wife has passed away. He meets an enigmatic figure named Wednesday, who asks Shadow to work for him. (Run errands with him.) Through most of the book,...   Read More

aQuaira Bandouk

Gaiman became te storyteller that showed possibilities throught his early novels and stories, and being a direct sibling to the Sandmand collection has demonstrated, once again, that fiction is no more than a point of view over religion and belief. ...   Read More

Taylor Yarbrough

This was a exelent book. It had everything possible that makes a good book. I think Neil needs to make some more books like this to make all his fans happy. I can't wait til I get Caroline!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Damien Roche

This is the first book in ages that I couldnt put down.Just as you think you know where this book is heading - it changes direction. Such a compliceted story told in a way every one can understand. Have already highly recommended this book to the ...   Read More

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