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Friday, September 07, 2007

Anansi Boys a Fun, But Meaningful Romp

Fat Charlie Nancy has a problem: his father. According to Charlie, his dad "[was] the most embarrassing person on God's Green Earth" (7), an attribute he "had elevated ... to an art form, and he rejoiced in it..."(4). After a childhood of humiliation at the hands of his father, Charlie moves to England, where he feels relatively safe. Until his fiancee suggests inviting the man to their wedding. Rosie, Fat Charlie's bride-to-be is so kind that Charlie cannot say no to her, so he dutifully phones the U.S. in search of his father. A phone call to Mrs. Higgler, an elderly friend of the family in Florida, results in this news: Fat Charlie's father is dead. When he travels to the U.S. for the funeral, Fat Charlie gets a double shock: according to Mrs. Higgler, his father was actually Anansi, the African spider god of trickery; and he has a brother he never knew about. This confirms his sneaking suspicion: Mrs. Higgler is insane. The old woman insists, however, that if Charlie wants to see his brother all he has to do is whisper his request to a spider. Shaking off the whole crazy business, Fat Charlie returns to the U.K. hoping to resume his nice, normal life.

One night, while shooing away a spider, Charlie jokingly asks the creature to send his brother to him. Much to his shock, the arachnid delivers. Charlie's brother, Spider, is suddenly standing on his doorstep. Spider explains that he, not Charlie, got all of the magic in the family and is, in fact, half god. Like the mens' father, Spider is looking for three things: wine, women and song. Basically, all he wants is a good time and he soon sets about getting it, dragging a sputtering Charlie along with him. After one whirlwind evening with his brother, Charlie awakes to find a woman in his bed who is not Rosie; Spider impersonating him at the office; and himself a stranger in his own home which Spider has magically transformed into a rockin' bachelor pad. In short, Spider has taken over his life. Charlie finds himself on the outside while Spider seduces Rosie, intimidates his boss, and generally makes a mess of his careful life. Desperate, Charlie flies back to Florida to beg Mrs. Higgler's help in being rid of his brother. His request propels him into a strange world where a host of animal/human beings offer him little help. As a trickster, Anansi made a whole lot of enemies, not too many friends. Finally, Charlie begs a sinister Bird Woman to help him get rid of Spider. In exchange for the ruination of Anansi's bloodline, the creature agrees.

Returning to England once again, Charlie is hoping for a quick, quiet resolution to his problem. That is not to be. The Bird Woman has sent her minions - in the form of pigeons, larks, even penguins - to deal with Spider. Aghast, Charlie realizes that he has formed an alliance with a dangerous being. Now, the brothers must run for their lives from their father's ancient enemies. With the help of a pretty policewoman, four withered old ladies, a duppy, and a lime (yes, a lime), Charlie must save himself and his brother, the last of Anansi's line. To do so, Charlie must find his inner strength, confront a bloodthirsty tiger and come to terms with a father he never really knew or understood.

It's difficult to describe this book in all its complexity. On the surface, it's a fun, magical story about a man taking on enemies as old as time. At its heart, however, Anansi Boys is the story of a man and his father, two men who refuse to see eye-to-eye until it's too late. Its moral is one of loving despite differences and, most of all, about embracing what is unique in each of us.

Despite the story's common father v. son theme, this book is anything but ordinary. The writing is spectacular - fun, sarcastic and hilarious - as are the characters. The plot moves quickly, with enough wacky stories to keep you reading. In short, it's just a fun romp, although a romp with a timeless, endearing message about brothers, fathers, humans and the hidden strengths in all of us.

1 comment:

  1. Gaiman did a fantastic job at this one, I read it based on my GF's recommendation and it kinda got me caught up in all his works, I've been a great fan ever since.


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