American Gods by Neil Gaiman

America is a bad place for gods in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. In modern day, a war has broken out between the old gods and the new. This is where Shadow finds himself – standing in the middle of a troubling war he doesn’t fully understand.

Shadow has been in jail for the last three years and as soon as he’s about to be released, his wife Laura dies in a car crash. Unexpectedly, Shadow meets the odd and all knowing Mr. Wednesday, a leader of the old gods, who offers him a job. With nowhere to go and nothing to do but grieve, he accepts Mr. Wednesday’s offer.

We soon learn that Wednesday is rallying the old gods to join him in the battle. Shadow plays a larger role in this than he could have ever imagined.

Through this story, Gaiman shares a vivid history of America. It’s a really interesting idea, this war of the gods, and it’s very fantastical and full of mythology. The story is definitely thought-provoking, but the pace was slow for me and some of the transitions from one scene to the next were difficult to follow.

I loved Gaiman’s book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and while American Gods was also good, it was very different. It’s clear that he’s a very talented writer!

These quotes stood out to me:

“’This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into stillness, ‘that worries about what it is.’”

“Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.”

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneI was very pleasantly surprised with The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman because I had no expectations when I started reading. A beautifully written story, it is both touching and a bit dazzling.

Our narrator returns to his hometown for a funeral and finds himself drawn to one of the farms neighboring his childhood home. Once there, he revisits an old memory of an adventure he had when he was seven years old. The boy is a lonely child and a bit self-deprecating in a sadly humorous way. Because of this, he is very excited to meet the little girl from the neighboring farm, Lettie. Lettie is mature beyond her eleven years and our narrator is instantly stricken by her wisdom and bravery to face danger as an adult might.

Gaiman does a fantastic job of allowing the reader to get inside the head of a child and I really enjoyed it. There is a really interesting divide between adults and children and the boy refers to the grown-ups in his life as though they are a set of different species.

A few of my favorite lines from the book:

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.”

I really recommend The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This is one of those books with lines and ideas that stick with you long after reading it.