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Anansi Boys

by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman X
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 416 pages

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The most accomplished of Gaiman's novels . . . Urbane and sophisticated.

From the book jacket: When Fat Charlie's dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie "Fat Charlie." Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can't shake that name, one of the many embarrassing "gifts" his father bestowed -- before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie's life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie's doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who's going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun ... just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie's dad wasn't just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny -- a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King's glowing assessment of the author as "a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him." 

Comment: Minding his own business, with a life of his own in England, including a fiancée and a job working for a loathsome talent agent, Charlie Nancy hasn't heard from his father in years; but weddings are supposed to bring people together, so he calls home to invite Dad, only to find that he's just died.  Next stop Florida for the funeral, where he meets some old family friends - four little old ladies who happen to be witches, who tell him that his father was the African god Anansi in human form, and that he has a brother, Spider - and if he wants to meet his brother all he has to do is tell a spider.

Disbelieving Charlie returns to London; not long after he rescues a spider from the bathtub and on a whim tells its, "If you see my brother, tell him he ought to come by and say hello."  Of course, soon after Spider does just that, and promptly turns Charlie's life upside down and, for good measure, shakes the contents out the window - before Charlie can get his bearings he's lost his job, his fiancée and is in prison on suspicion of embezzlement and murder. 

Having summoned Spider with magic, Charlie must invoke magic to get rid of him, to do that he returns to Florida to seek the help of the four little old ladies, who help him gain entrance to the spirit world, where the action really starts. 

With a smaller cast of central characters than American Gods, Gaiman is in his element with Anansi Boys. Stories that retell myths are two-a-penny but stories that flow with the gleeful confidence of Anansi Boys are much more rare.

This review first ran in the October 19, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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