Let me begin this review by saying that if there were awards for being an ADD poster child, then I’m sure I’d have a shelf covered with trophies. Concentrating on a single task for longer than two minutes is something I just don’t do, so reading an entire novel in a single day in (mostly) one sitting isn’t something that happens very often in the life of Jamelah. Yet that’s exactly what I did yesterday with Neil Gaiman’s latest, Anansi Boys, and here’s why.
Anansi Boys is a follow-up to the incredibly popular American Gods, which I have never read, although it gets recommended to me at least once every six months. It tells the story of Charles Nancy, a.k.a. Fat Charlie, whose incredibly embarrassing father dies one night while singing karaoke. Fat Charlie’s life goes into a tailspin, much of which is brought on by the discovery of his long-lost brother, Spider. Along the way, there are all sorts of hijinks — with love, with work, with the law — four endearingly perfect little old ladies and healthy doses of magic, folklore, mystery and humor. And a lime. Can’t forget the lime.
There’s also a bit of postmodern cleverness here and there, which I am not typically a fan of, but for whatever reason, it didn’t bother me in this book. I think perhaps because it was encased in such good storytelling. It often seems that postmodern cleverness is employed by writers just for the “Hey! Look at how clever I am!” effect, but with Anansi Boys, Gaiman, even when he’s blatantly winking at his readers, doesn’t lose sight of the fact that he’s telling a story.
And does he ever. From the beginning of Anansi Boys to its (very satisfying) conclusion, Gaiman works the storytelling with a light, engaging tone that makes the book immensely readable, even when it veers off the charts of plausability straight into the realm of fantasy (something else I’m not typically a fan of). Funny writing very rarely makes me laugh. There’s a part of my brain that registers the fact that it’s funny, and I may smile, but I don’t usually laugh. This book made me laugh, however. Out loud. More than once. That bears mentioning, because I really am a tough customer when it comes to humor.
Anyway, I was fully expecting not to like this book, since I expect not to like most books, being the curmudgeonly book snob I am. But I liked this one. A lot. I may have even loved it, I don’t know. No matter what word I end up using to describe my feelings for Anansi Boys, I will say that it was nice to sit down with a book that was a pure pleasure to read from beginning to end. It didn’t make my brain hurt with any sort of verbal acrobatics or anything, but I was entertained with every page. I like being entertained.
So. Between the covers of Anansi Boys, we have a good story, likeable characters (except for the bad guys — they’re not likeable at all), a few American folktales, love, mischief, a little bit of horror, and a lot of fun. It’s a great Sunday afternoon book (you know the kind), so if you’re on the market for one, I highly recommend it.