I was a little hesitant to start this book primarily because it features one of the gods from American Gods and of the Gaiman I’ve read thus far, that was my least favorite (though I still very much enjoyed it). Delightfully, I was completely wrong to delay reading this book. It doesn’t really have anything to do with American Gods and it’s fantastically entertaining. There are ghosts, murder, intrigue, and multiple dimensions to travel through in this book.
Fat Charlie Nancy is not his father’s biggest fan. In fact, he would argue that he’s not a fan of his father at all. You see, when Charlie was growing up his father would do the most embarrassing things. Like convince Fat Charlie that it was a tradition on President’s Day to dress up as your favorite president for school. In fact, Fat Charlie’s father told him that the president you pick determines how popular you’ll be later on down the line. Unfortunately for Charlie, he not only believed his father, but he wasn’t allowed to go home to change his clothes either. He picked Taft. When Fat Charlie learns that his father has passed away he flies back to Florida. While he’s there, he learns more family secrets. You know, like how his father was a god and how he has a brother he doesn’t know about. From here, the tale spins out into a twisty convoluted story of adventure, animals, and courage found.
I loved it. Mind you, this isn’t one of my SELF books, but it doesn’t have to be for me to thoroughly enjoy it. Gaiman continues to amaze me with his uncanny ability to write people. Charlie in particular is just delightful. He’s affable and clumsy. How could I not identify with him? Something unique to this book is that Gaiman doesn’t just allow one character to grow; he does it with ALL the characters. It’s not even that long of a book, but each and every character has at least one moment of pure growth. On some level, that makes the book even more realistic because we are all growing as people every minute of every day. It’s never just one person moving though their life. All 6.9 billion of us are moving through individually unique lives simultaneously. Gaiman somehow manages to bring this thought into his book in a subtly uniform way without being ham-handed about it.
This book is a very realistic view of family. Yes, none of us are related to gods and, of course, being in a family of gods complicates the living daylights out of family dynamics, but on some level it’s still applicable. There are things that occur in gods’ families that translate with ease to normal families. Siblings fight when their relationship is young and there’s really no getting around that. Parents are embarrassing. Everyone had a scary next door neighbor. These are all part of the human condition, but Gaiman puts them into a pretty stark perspective by putting it into a particular context.
In the end, the saving grace of the book is Charlie. He will immediately win your heart. I found his typically British bumbling to be endearing and his tendency to not stick up for himself to be far too familiar. Charlie isn’t some fabricated person who is the best of every world. No, he’s a real human being with psychoses that outnumber his fingers. He lacks ambition in his job and generally feels empty. (I’m sure anyone working in a corporate arena can understand what I’m saying there.) However, because of all of these things, it’s that much more enjoyable to watch him fight through this book. It makes the book more realistic. It’s not a matter of suspending your disbelief. You’ll believe every last word because Charlie does and he doesn’t have a choice in the matter.
4 ink bottles. Very entertaining and a quick read.