American Gods is the story of America as a quilted patchwork of immigrant cultures with a diverse and every-growing number of beliefs. The story begins with Shadow, released from jail several days early because his wife is killed in a car accident. He encounters the mysterious Mr. Wednesday almost immediately upon release – once, twice, and again and is offered a job. He discovers that Mr. Wednesday is Odin, the Lord of Asgard, symbol of the forgotten gods living throughout America. With jobs ranging from prostitute to taxi driver, these “old” gods make do while they hope that Americans will remember, and honor them. Their holy places are the roadside attractions so dismissed by modern Americans. Their hope to be remembered is apparently in conflict with a new set of gods; Media, Town, Credit Cards, and others whose temples are our shopping malls. Shadow has a series of adventures, some in real life, some in dreams, as he journeys from someone not quite alive to the key individual in the upcoming battle for supremacy between the old and new gods.
The novel is a fascinating exploration of the meaning of ethnicity, modernism, memory, and community in which we are reminded of the many ethnicities that make up America, but also their amalgamation into a secular American society with few gods. As multiple characters remind us, America is a hard place to be a god. This is a quintessential American novel from a quintessential British storyteller – it’s a sprawling road trip into the vast highways and byways of the American landscape, it’s a horror novel, a mystery, a romance, a western, a fantasy, and ultimately a look into the heart of America.
Featuring Caroline Bhalla, Raphael Bostic, Lisa Schweitzer, and David Sloane
To listen to the Bedrosian Book Club discussion of American Gods click the orange arrow in the Soundcloud player at the top of this post. Or you can download it and subscribe through iTunes, Soundcloud, or Google Play
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Next Month …
Read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance along with us, and listen to our discussion on February 27, 2017.
We’ve been looking at the “heartland” the last few months. Beginning with a historic look at poor whites with White Trash then a road-trip through the vast American landscape both physical and mythological in American Gods and our next read is yet another different look into what we often think of as the heartland: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
The Economist wrote that “You will not read a more important book about America this year.” Let’s read the book together and find out if their blurb is hyperbole.