Eight Million Gods has a slightly manga-plot feel to it, only partly because it takes place in Japan. (And it is also not because the cover features a pink haired character in a crop top sailor suit. Maybe.) Our Heroine is a writer named Nikki, who has spent most of her adult life on the run from her mother, who keeps sticking her institutions. Nikki has OCD, which tends to manifest as a compulsion to write. Her favorite genre is horror, and she has a loyal following of fans who are more than willing to help her escape her mother’s clutches.
Our Heroine flees to Japan, hoping that putting a couple oceans between herself and her mother will give her time to get her life together. (When your mom is a Senator, you apparently need to run very far away to get anywhere.) Nikki begins to wonder if her mom might be right about her instability when she is suspected of killing another American expatriate, an expatriate who bears a remarkable resemblance to a character in one of her stories. This results in her tangling with a secret society that hunts monsters, a minor kami who wants to avenge the death of a shrine maiden, a very angry kami who wants to destroy the world, and her mother who is hiding a dreadful secret behind her desire to have Nikki institutionalized.
When I first heard about this book, I was a bit doubtful about wanting to read it. This was mostly because I did not like what I was hearing about the way Nikki’s mental illness was being treated. (It sounded as if the story was going to be anti-therapy and anti-medication, which tends to annoy me a great deal.) However, I did not get this feeling from the actual book, which actually handles the plot fairly well, though in a very manga-plot way (slightly implausible and somewhat over the top, in other words).
Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I found some aspects of the story frustrating. One problem was the mother’s characterization. She was extremely hard to pin down as far as motives were concerned, which would normally be a good thing, but not in this case. Spencer at first seems to be trying to indicate that the mother’s over-reaction to Nikki’s OCD is because of a traumatic experience, but then the motive veers off into cackling villain territory. Other problems mostly have to do with pacing and length (too fast and too short). This was a very entertaining read and I definitely recommend it.