Fat Charlie Nancy is not, in fact, fat - but when he was a kid and was just a bit plump, his father started calling him that, and - as with every nickname his father ever gave anything - it stuck. Fat Charlie has a complicated relationship with his father. Complicated in the sense that Fat Charlie does not want to invite his father to his upcoming wedding because he knows that, as always, his father will make him incredibly, excruciatingly embarrassed.
Rosie, Charlie's very kind fiancée, won't think of not inviting his father to their wedding - so Charlie tries to get in touch with him, only to find out that his father has just died. Charlie flies from London, where he lives, to Florida, where he grew up, for the funeral. There an elderly neighbor tells him that he has a brother - a brother he has never even heard of! How to get in touch with this mysterious brother, Charlie asks? "Just tell a spider," says the old woman. And when, a bit drunk, Charlie later does just that, the last thing that he expects is for his brother to turn up, shake up his life and push him over the edge into a world in which the ancient gods from African stories are living, breathing, powerful creatures. Oh, and one of them is Charlie's dad.
Gaiman weaves a hilarious tale with the skill of a (I can't resist) spider, with gods and goddesses, a dedicated policewoman, a charismatic brother with unusual abilities, the most annoying boss ever to appear in a novel, some wonderfully odd (and powerful) little old ladies, an unforgettable mother-in-law-to-be, and a nasty, villainous tiger bent on revenge.
Aside from Gaiman's masterful storytelling, which never fails to pull me into a tale and make it utterly believable, no matter how far-fetched the plot may be, Lenny Henry's narration of this story is immensely effective. He does the voices of characters so well that I could tell, without dialog tags, who was speaking at any time. He does East End accents, Caribbean accents, American accents, and when he goes into storyteller mode, recounting the adventures of Anansi the spider, it evokes a starry night, firelight, and rapt attention from a crowd of listeners.
I read this book for the Mythopoeic Award Challenge, and I have loved every one of these books so far!
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman; narrated by Lenny Henry (HarperAudio, 2005)
Other blog reviews:
Bold Blue Adventure
Brother Willow's Walk