“Stories are webs, interconnected strand to strand, and you follow each story to the center, because the center is the end. Each person is a strand of story.”
I stumbled upon a signed, limited edition copy of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman during a lunch at Webster’s Bookstore Café in State College, Pennsylvania. I wish I could say I found the book, but the truth is that the book found me.
Anansi Boys is the American Gods spinoff I didn’t know I needed. Although it’s been many years since I read American Gods, Neil Gaiman immediately caught me in this web of a tale, a contemporary low fantasy steeped in West African folklore.
Why are there so many trickster gods? Whether it’s the Norse god Loki, the Greek goddess Eris, or the Monkey King from Chinese mythology, it seems like every pantheon has a resident trickster. While I’ve personally grown weary of this trope, Neil Gaiman successfully converted this unbelieving arachnophobe into a fan of Anansi, the West African spider god of mischief.
We already met Anansi as “Mr. Nancy” in American Gods. Unfortunately for Mr. Nancy, he expires fairly quickly in Anansi Boys, and in a rather embarrassing fashion, leaving behind two sons who never knew each other:
“Of course, everyone’s parents are embarrassing. It goes with the territory. The nature of parents is to embarrass merely by existing, just as it is the nature of children of a certain age to cringe with embarrassment, shame, and mortification should their parents so much as speak to them on the street.”
Charles Nancy, dubbed “Fat Charlie” by his father, didn’t inherit any of his dad’s divine powers. He works at a boring job in a shady investment firm in London and is preparing, rather unenthusiastically, to be married to his girlfriend Rosie.
But Charlie’s life is shaken up when his brother, Spider, enters his life. Spider shares his father’s mischievous nature and magical powers. He assumes Charlie’s identity—just for fun—inadvertently ruining his job and stealing his girlfriend in the process.
Charlie must seek supernatural help to fight back against Spider and reclaim his life. However, the help he receives may be more than he bargained for, as a spider’s natural enemy threatens even his own life.
Neil Gaiman proves once again to be a master storyteller with Anansi Boys, a delightful tale that is full of heart. My only regret is that the story took this long to find me.