I went into this book with very few expectations, and I can honestly say I was blown away. Nathan Hill’s The Nix grabbed me from the beginning and refused to let go. The story was original and enjoyable, but the incredible writing is what made me return; Hill is overwhelmingly skilled at crafting sentences and paragraphs that tug at your heartstrings and force you to keep reading (even when you should be writing a research paper). This is one of those books that kept me up until two a.m. reading on a weeknight, that I pulled out to read in the few minutes between classes, that I put in my bag for the five-minute ride to the grocery store “just in case.” I couldn’t get enough.
From the back cover:
It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, in decades- not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s reappeared, having committed a crime that electrifies the nightly news and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a 1960s radical, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of her is true? Two facts are certain: She’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.
“The things you love most will one day hurt you the worst.”
-Nathan Hill, The Nix
One of the things I loved most about The Nix was the way the characters’ stories were woven together. The book had ten parts, switching between the summers of 1968, 1988, and 2011. We see the main character Samuel as a child in 1988 and as an adult in 2011, but we also see his mother, Faye, as a teenager in 1968. Hill would reveal something about a character, and then go back in time to show it happening. This excellent character development strategy reflects how important it is to refrain from judging a person based on what you’ve heard about them. For example, the reader would learn what everyone thought of Faye as a teenager, and then it would go back in time to when Faye was actually a teenager and show what really happened. This way of storytelling reminded me heavily of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Reading The Nix really made me think about the world that we live in. Hill included a lot of political and social commentary into this novel. His description of student Laura Pottsdam and her obsession with “iFeel,” a social media platform similar to Twitter and/or Facebook, was disturbingly accurate and inspired me to take a step away from my own online accounts. Hill also reflected on the current political state of the nation in a somewhat humorous way; the novel’s Governor Sheldon Packer seemed to be an exaggerated version of President Trump himself. There were a few seemingly unimportant “side” characters, such as Laura and the video-game-obsessed Pwnage, but these characters added to Hill’s frighteningly realistic setting by stressing our current societal ideals on humanity.
“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.”
-Nathan Hill, The Nix
I can say with confidence that The Nix is one of my favorite books of the year! I cannot wait to see what Nathan Hill comes up with next.