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the bookshelf:
ods among us
by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3 

My dad doesn't read novels. He doesn't like fiction; says it's too fake. But me, I've always been a sucker for a good juicy read; the real world's fine and dandy, but I love escaping into fantastical fictional worlds. And frankly, with all due respect to my dad, I have to disagree on the fakeness charge. The stories we concoct, they say a lot about a culture. They show us our hopes and our fears, our dreams and our values; they tell us who we are, and perhaps even more so, who we want to be. There's truth in the made-up, there's real-world relevance in the myths … as two of my favorite recent reads set out to prove.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman buy it

Londoner "Fat Charlie" Nancy is the sort of guy who tiptoes through life. He goes out of his way to avoid drawing attention to himself; standing out from the crowd is his biggest fear. He works a boring entry-level job as an accountant; he's about to get married to a kind and lovely girl named Rosie, which would be great if it weren't for the fact that neither Rosie nor Fat Charlie feels particularly passionately towards the other. Still, Charlie is convinced that he wants nothing more than the ho-hum out of his life. His father, see, was the polar opposite of Charlie -- dedicated lay-about, occasional charlatan, dazzling ladies man, and a consummate charmer who attracted/pissed off people wherever he went. Charlie hasn't seen his dad since he was a kid, and as far as he's concerned, good riddance. Years later, memories of his dad's embarrassing practical jokes continue to torment Fat Charlie. Even his unfortunate nickname, bestowed by his dad during a very brief and only marginally chunky period of his youth, is an irritating and constant reminder of why life is better with dad far, far away in America.

But as their wedding plans get underway, Rosie manages to persuade Fat Charlie that it's time to make amends, and invite his dad to their big day. Rather reluctantly, Fat Charlie finally picks up phone. He doesn't have a number for his father, but manages to reach an old family friend -- who informs him that she was just about to call Charlie to tell him the sad news: his father, it seems, has passed away. (True to form, it's in a manner that Fat Charlie considers too humiliating to tell his sympathetic wife-to-be.) Fat Charlie hops on a plane to Florida for the funeral, sure that with his dad now out of his life for good, he can get some resolution on his complicated feelings towards the old man. Instead, he makes some unsettling discoveries at the funeral: that his father wasn't an ordinary guy at all, but the African trickster god Anansi… and that he has a twin brother floating out there in the world, the mischievous Spider, who seems to have inherited the godlike side of their father that Charlie obviously lacks. As he finds himself entering a weird, weird world where myth and reality come head to head, Charlie's simple, ordinary life is soon turned upside down.

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