Anansi Boys Summary

Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys

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Anansi Boys Summary

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Anansi Boys (2005), a fantasy novel by writer Neil Gaiman, follows the son of the recently deceased Mr. Nancy—who, his son learns, is actually the African trickster god Anansi. He also learns that his father had another son, one who inherited all his god-like powers. The character Mr. Nancy was first introduced in one of Gaiman’s previous books, American Gods. Gaiman is a bestselling and award-winning author, born in England and currently living in America. His notable works include the Sandman graphic novel series, Stardust, Neverwhere, and Coraline.

Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy is an African-American living in London. He has a good job and a fiancée, Rosie Noah, but Fat Charlie is timid and tentative. He learns his father has died in Florida. Mr. Nancy and Fat Charlie didn’t always have the best relationship—Fat Charlie’s father often played pranks on his sensitive son. He’s the one who gave Fat Charlie his nickname. Fat Charlie isn’t even fat—but when Mr. Nancy started calling him “Fat Charlie,” somehow the nickname stuck.

At the funeral, family friend Callyanne Higgler tells him a secret: his father was actually Anansi, the African trickster spider god. She also tells him he has a brother. That brother, she says, is the one who inherited all their father’s powers. She tells him if he wants to meet his brother, all he has to do is ask a spider. Fat Charlie doesn’t believe her, but one night he drunkenly talks to a spider about his brother.

The next morning, his brother shows up. Tall, suave, and handsome, he goes by the nickname “Spider.” He displays his powers when Fat Charlie tells him their father is dead: he steps through a picture frame of their childhood home to confirm the truth.

Spider suggests Fat Charlie join him for a night of “wine, women, and song” to drown their sorrows over their father’s death. Spider proves himself irresistibly, perhaps magically, charming, drawing women to his side with ease as Fat Charlie watches. Everything in life seems to come easily to Spider.

The next day, a hungover Fat Charlie wakes up with a strange woman, a cop named Daisy, in his bed. She carefully explains that they have not slept together; she is only there to make sure he’s okay. She gets up and encounters Rosie’s mother paying a visit. Fat Charlie tries to pass Daisy off as his cousin. Rosie believes him, but Mrs. Noah does not.

Fat Charlie wakes up very late for work, but Spider has disguised himself as his brother and gone to work in his stead. He discovers that Fat Charlie’s boss, Grahame Coats, has been embezzling from clients for years. After work, still disguised as Fat Charlie, Spider takes Rosie out. She believes he is a new and improved Fat Charlie. Though Rosie has told Fat Charlie she intends to stay a virgin until their marriage, she sleeps with Spider.

Spider tells Coats he knows about the embezzlement. The next day, Fat Charlie shows up for work and Coats tells him to take a vacation. Coats begins to forge financial documents that will frame Fat Charlie for his crimes.

Now that Fat Charlie has lost Rosie to Spider, he decides to go back to Florida. He asks Mrs. Higgler for help, but she tells him their other neighbor, Mrs. Dunwiddy, would be better to ask. They send Fat Charlie to the “Beginning of the World” to ask for help from other gods. But the other gods, having all been tricked by Anansi at some point or another, bear a grudge. Tiger especially hates Anansi because Anansi owns all the stories in the world, which means he gets to control the nature of the world. Tiger, a predator, wants to own the stories and make the world a more tiger-like place.

Fat Charlie makes a deal with Bird: she will get rid of Spider if he gives her Anansi’s bloodline. Back in England, Spider tells Rosie who he really is and that Fat Charlie knew about the deception. She is so disturbed by the news, she calls off their wedding. When she returns home, a pleased Mrs. Noah suggests they go on a cruise together to help her get over the breakup.

When Charlie returns to England, he is arrested for embezzlement. Daisy is one of the officers who interrogate him but believes he is innocent. Meanwhile, Grahame Coats meets with a client, Maeve Livingston, who realizes he has been stealing money from her accounts. When she tells him what she knows, he kills her and hides her body in his office. Maeve’s ghost begins to haunt the building.

Flamingoes attack Spider, and he realizes Fat Charlie has done something to him and his luck. He magically frees Fat Charlie from prison, but everywhere they go, birds attack them. Fat Charlie admits to the deal he made with Bird. Spider returns Fat Charlie to prison, so he’ll be safe from birds there. Fat Charlie tells Daisy about the hidden room in Coats’s office, which is where Maeve’s body is hidden. Police find her body, but cannot convict Coats, because he has already fled to St. Andrews in the Caribbean.

Bird delivers Spider to Tiger, who imprisons him. Spider sculpts a tiny spider out of clay and asks it to find help. Rosie and Mrs. Noah encounter Coats in the Caribbean, and he imprisons them in the basement of his vacation home.

Charlie goes back to Florida again, looking for Mrs. Higgler. She has gone on vacation to St. Andrews, but he learns something else from his father’s old friends: when Fat Charlie was a child, Mrs. Dunwiddy was angry at him for accidentally breaking one of her possessions. As punishment, she magically split him into two. His good side became Fat Charlie, and his bad side became Spider.

Fat Charlie tracks down Mrs. Higgler, who sends him back to the Beginning of the World. He undoes his deal with Bird. Tiger tries to kill Spider, but all the spider reinforcements Spider summoned help him, and he escapes.

Tiger possesses Grahame Coats’s body; Coats has always had a tiger-like personality. He tries to kill Rosie and Mrs. Noah, but Coats’s possession makes him vulnerable to other spirits, and Maeve’s ghost kills him. Fat Charlie discovers he does have some of his father’s power: he can alter reality by singing. He tells a long story about everything that has happened, humiliating Tiger, who retreats into his cave. Spider collapses Tiger’s cave entrance and Fat Charlie alters reality to seal the cave permanently, trapping Tiger inside.

Fat Charlie and Spider remain two separate people. Spider marries Rosie and opens a restaurant, while Fat Charlie (now just “Charlie”) marries Daisy and becomes a singer.

Anansi Boys debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. It won the Locus, Mythopoeic, and British Fantasy Awards. Elements of the story will appear in later seasons of the American Gods TV adaptation.