I’ve been on a reading roll, recently (say that ten times fast). In just a couple weeks, I read and loved Homegoing, Song of Achilles, The Nix, and The Chronology of Water. I am currently reading and loving Homo Deus and Cat’s Eye. While I don’t have the time or energy to review all of these books, trust me when I say that they were amazing, and I gave each of them no less than a 4 star rating. I decided to review Nathan Hill’s The Nix because it is one of the newest books I’ve read.
The Nix is a 700+ page long book about culture, politics, and family. In a time similar to our own, the media is ablaze with covering the story of a women who threw rocks at a super-conservative presidential candidate. Her identity is connected to prostitution charges and protesting in Chicago in the 1960’s. When her son, Samuel Anderson, discovers that this “Packer Attacker” is his own mother, he is completely shocked. His mother, Faye, was a perfectly normal housewife who had married her high school sweetheart, though she abandoned the family when Samuel was a child.
It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.
To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother and himself.
This was the perfect book for our modern political and cultural era. It pokes fun at American politics, the media, publishing, and video game users. However, overall it is not a pessimistic book. Author Nathan Hill reminds us that we never know the full story about someone else’s life, and we need to get better at caring for others.
The Nix is one of the most genuinely funny books I have ever read. Seriously–I found myself laughing out loud many times. Highlights include Samuel’s cheating student Laura, and gamer-turned-thriller novelist “Pwnage”. Hill exaggerates the characteristics of today’s generation and parodies them in an effective way. Though this book is very long, it is easy and entertaining to read.
Hill introduces spiritual elements of Faye’s Norwegian ancestry, including a spirit called “The Nix”. The spirits are an explanation for Faye’s panic attacks and a metaphor that the things you love most will hurt you. The spirits are the most confusing and mystical part of the book, contrasting with the more realistic characters and plot.
Overall, The Nix is hilarious and satirical yet warmhearted. It teaches readers that it’s never too late to start over and fix your mistakes. It reminds us that we never know the full truth about history, politics, our friends, and our family. The Nix is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.