After his father's funeral, Fat Charlie discovers two secrets that change his life; his father was the trickster god Anansi, and he has a brother he never knew about. Fat Charlie is an accountant working for a small time talent agency in London. He lives a humdrum life and is engaged to marry a girl he's not sure he loves.
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Growing up, Fat Charlie was perpetually mortified by his father, a larger than life figure with flamboyant taster and prone to embarrassing acts. It was his father that gave him the nickname Fat Charlie, which he hasn't been able to shake. The book begins when he receives a phone call telling him that his father is dead, collapsed on stage in his hometown of Florida while singing karaoke to impress some women.
Fat Charlie travels to the funeral and afterwards Mrs. Higgler, an old family friend who is in attendance lets him in on a secret; his father wasn't a man at all but the incarnation of the West African trickster god Anansi and furthermore Fat Charlie is not an only child, he has a brother who inherited all of Anansi's powers. She also tells him that he can summon his brother whenever he wants by giving the message to a spider.
Fat Charlie thinks this is nonsense, but back home he gets drunk one night and impulsively whispers to a spider for his brother to visit. The next morning a handsome stranger shows up at his door and introduces himself as Spider, his long lost brother.
Spider is the exact opposite of Charlie; handsome, confident, and charming. He was unaware of his father's death and is distraught. But after a night of carousing with his brother the trouble starts, he almost immediately sleeps with Fat Charlie's fiancee, impersonates him at work and blackmails his boss over embezzlement taking place at the firm, and generally proceeds to make a mess of his life.
At wits end and unable to get his brother to leave him alone again, Fat Charlie goes to Florida to seek help from Mrs. Higgler and his divine relations. The rest of the gods hold various grudges against Anansi for his tricks, so all refuse to help him except for one. The Bird Woman offers to help in exchange for the Anansi bloodline, which Fat Charlie agrees to.
While he was away, Fat Charlie's boss has framed him for the embezzlement and killed one of the clients whose money he stole. Fat Charlie knows none of this, but is arrested for the financial fraud when he gets back to England. Meanwhile Spider, whom he has had a row with, is puzzled by a series of bird attacks he is experiencing.
Spider confronts and fights with the Bird Woman and another god she is in cahoots with, Tiger. He loses and is imprisoned, but eventually Fat Charlie is able to get himself out of prison and rescue his brother with help of some of his other relatives.
The novel culminates with most of the major players including Rosie, Fat Charlie's fugitive boss, and the ghost of the woman he murdered, all involved in a big showdown. Its revealed the Fat Charlie and Spider were originally two sides of the same person, which is why they are so diametrically opposites. Spider summons an army of spiders, and Fat Charlie manages to tap into his inheritance and sing a song to weave a mesmerizing tale to alter the very fabric of reality, and help rescue his brother.
After their victory both Fat Charlie and Spider settle into a more normal fraternal relationship, Spider weds his brother's erstwhile fiance Rosie, and Fat Charlie finds love with a policewoman he met earlier in the story and uses his new found confidence and talents to give up accounting and become a singer instead.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's always fun to see a mild mannered guy have his life turned upside-down, and you really feel sympathetic for poor Charlie.
Best scene in story:
The first night on the town with the two brother's, we've all been there with someone who sweeps us along and we can't quite keep up.
Opinion about the main character:
Fat Charlie represents the less suave part of all of us who can't quite do or say the right thing and always feels like a bith of a dork.