Book Reviews,  FICTION,  FOUR STARS ****,  Humor,  Latin America/Caribbean,  Prize Winner

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman **** (of 4)

It takes equal parts chutzpah and talent to write a fairy tale for adults, but Gaiman has the skill to have you open the cover and not close it until the last page.  This is a variation on the African myths of Anansi the spider whose cleverness and hijinks make him the subject of countless stories.  In this one, Mr. Nancy (the senior Anansi) dies in a bar while flirting with much younger women to the great embarrassment of his son, Charles “Fat Charly” Nancy.  Fat Charly attends the funeral, learns he has a brother he never knew of, called Spider, finds himself caught up in an uninspiring marriage engagement, a dead-end job, under the nosy influence of four aging (hysterically funny) Caribbean grandmothers, and ultimately a murder mystery.  The protagonists are well-meaning, but trapped by forces, some overwhelmingly real, others phantasmagorical, who do their best to muddle through.  Never really scary, but nearly always quite funny, if you have any chance to listen to the reading narrated by Lenny Henry, by all means do so.  His voice impersonations of the senior Mrs. Callyanne Higler, the cool, hip Spider, and the slimy Grahame Coats will bring life to characters you will recall with a smile for weeks after you are done.