American Gods by Neil Gaiman

One of the diagnostic essays I give my students is to recommend to me their favorite books. While most are books I have already read, or young adult fiction that I might not read, once in a while a student recommends a book that I truly find intriguing. One such example was American Gods that a student talked about very passionately. It had been on my list ever since then, and when a friend liked it as well, I decided to get to it next.

I am not sure how I can convincingly review this book — because reading it was a really strange experience. Every few pages or so, I’d stop and ask myself “What in the damn hell am I reading?” And although I was thoroughly confused at several places, I could not stop reading. American Gods is like Twin Peaks meets Heroes meets Lost*.

The novel starts out simply enough. Shadow, a young man, is in jail and on the verge of being released. The week of his release, Shadow is given the bad news that his wife has died in a car accident. Upon being set free, Shadow takes a flight back home, and on the plane he meets a mysterious and persistent man named Mr. Wednesday who urges him to take up a job as his bodygaurd. With no other future left after the death of his wife, Shadow takes the job and sets off with Wednesday on a trip around America. Shadow’s journey soon takes a turn of epic and mythological proportions. Telling you anything more will just ruin the novel for you — and a smart reader will have guessed a lot from the novel’s title itself.

The novel is a roller coaster ride. There were times when I was rushing through the pages, where I felt like I was in control and knew exactly where the story was going. At other times, I was getting sucked into the story like in quicksand, unsure of what was happening, yet unable to come out. There were times when the book slipped into my dreams, and other times I’d wonder if there were parts of the books that I had dreamed up. I went through quite a few moments of déjà vu when reading the book too.

Here’s the kicker though. After experiencing the book, I’m still not sure whether I can recommend it to you confidently. In fact, I’d only want you to read the book so that, maybe, we can talk about it. I’m not entirely sure this book is a genre that I am comfortable with, however, there were parts of the book that engrossed me. Yet, I am on the fence about its effect on me.

What in the damn hell did I just read?

*I’m giving examples of TV series here because I cannot find book equivalents.
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