Chapter 1 Summary
As American Gods begins, a man called Shadow nears the end of a three-year prison sentence. He is a big man who looks tough enough to get through a sentence without being harassed. He has done his time quietly, waiting to get back to life with his wife, Laura.
In prison, Shadow has taught himself to do coin tricks. At the prompting of his cellmate, Low Key Lyesmith, he also read a book by the Greek historian Herodotus. Low Key was transferred away from prison recently, and he left Shadow his copy of Herodotus and a nickel.
As Shadow’s release approaches, he grows worried that something will go wrong. He calls Laura, who says everything is fine at home. He watches the goings-on in prison carefully, expecting some problem to blow up and hurt him.
A few days before Shadow’s release, he is called to speak with the warden of the prison—a highly unusual occurrence. The warden explains that Laura has died in a car accident. Shadow is going to be released immediately for the funeral. In a daze, Shadow returns to his cell and packs.
Shadow takes a bus and then a plane toward Eagle Point, Indiana. On the way, he thinks about his first date with Laura. She pressured him to taste her drink, a strawberry daiquiri, and seemed thrilled when he took a sip. Shadow thinks, “Laura loved people to taste what she tasted.” His thoughts linger on these sorts of little things, as if he cannot bring himself to think about the huge fact of her death. Still, it is clear he loved her deeply.
On the flight home, Shadow falls asleep and dreams about a man with the head of a buffalo. The man says, “If you are to survive, you must believe.” This confuses Shadow even in the dream, and his confusion remains when he awakes. He stumbles out of the plane to find himself in the wrong airport. The desk agent tells him that his plane was forced to land early because of...
(The entire section is 583 words.)