Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Anansi Boys by Neil GaimanTitle: Anansi Boys
Author: Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Lenny Henry
Audiobook Length:  10 hours, 8 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 20 September 2005
Bottom Line: Stellar story with an outstanding narrator

“When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck. Like calling Fat Charlie Fat Charlie. Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing gifts his father bestowed — before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things. Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew. A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun … just like Dear Old Dad. And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god. Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil. Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

Returning to the territory he so brilliantly explored in his masterful New York Times bestseller, American Gods, the incomparable Neil Gaiman offers up a work of dazzling ingenuity, a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth that is at once startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny — a true wonder of a novel that confirms Stephen King’s glowing assessment of the author as ‘a treasure-house of story, and we are lucky to have him.’ “

Thoughts: Anansi Boys is not just a story about two brothers meeting each other after a long, and unexplained, separation. It is not just about a man learning his paternity within the god realm. It is not even just a crime story. Granted, it has all of those elements within its pages, but it is so much more than its parts. It is even more than the sum of its parts. It is the right blend of magical realism, mythology and a young man finding his way after the unexpected loss of his larger-than-life father. There are screwball antics with serious undertones, story lines that verge on the silly but combine in such a way as to create a major life lesson, characters that thrill, anger, frighten, sadden, and love. Anansi Boys may be about the offspring of the trickster god, but it is also a love story, a coming-of-age story, and a journey about life.

Lenny Henry is absolutely sublime as the narrator for Anansi Boys. Caribbean, English, American, old, young, female, male – the story covers the gamut of voices, inflections, and accents required, and Mr. Henry nails every one of them. His versions of the animal gods are particularly perfect, as he captures each animal’s mannerisms with just his voice. The silky smooth but dangerous Tiger, the hyper Monkey, the bold and deep Elephant, the high-pitched, raucous Bird Woman – words fail to describe how fascinatingly accurate they are. Listeners can tell which animal is speaking by just his vocalization. It truly is amazing. Mr. Henry takes the same care when vocalizing the other characters. It is one of the few performances where the auditory experience is as fun and entertaining as the actual story being told.

Anansi Boys is pure Gaiman magic. His sentences sneak up on a reader, powerful in their whimsy and simplicity. His characters fit the same mold – larger than life and yet amazingly real. He applies a delicate touch with all magical elements, fitting them in so seamlessly that one forgets it is a work of fiction. Fat Charlie, Spider, and the rest of the cast are funny, thoughtful, slightly pathetic, and refreshingly human. This thoroughly enjoyable modern, mythological coming-of-age story solidifies Mr. Gaiman’s reputation as a truly epic weaver of fantastic fiction.

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