Published by Knopf/DoubleDay on August 30, 2016
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Samuel Andresen-Anderson is a complicated man. An English professor at a small college, video game enthusiast, and failed author, he has a penchant for getting himself into morally ambiguous situations. He also has a habit of ruminating on where it all went wrong, which he can pinpoint to an exact moment in time: the day his mother abruptly abandoned him as a child.
So when his mother is arrested for publicly attacking a presidential candidate, Samuel jumps at the chance to set his life back on track by writing her story. Though he hasn’t spoken to her in decades, he sees the potential to exploit for personal gain the woman who abandoned him. Unsurprisingly (and this is the case with all parent-child relationships), there’s more to his mother than meets the eye. The woman who lived a simple life in a small town wasn’t so simple, after all. His story, and the story he’s told himself about his mother, are not the stories his mother would tell, and this dichotomy is what helps drive The Nix forward.
The Nix is about all of these independent, yet overlapping, stories, and Hill weaves together the past and present in ways that only a masterful author can do. Because Hill is a master. So much so that he has been hailed as the next John Irving (and an author Irving himself praises). At times, I was spiraling into despair for this abandoned child, only to be ripped back to his present day reality of gluttonous self-pity. Other times, my heart was breaking for this woman, until I remembered all that she had done. And because each character is revealed in layers, it’s easy to run the gamut of emotional reactions to them all. From sheer frustration to palpable feelings of hope, I felt them all.Love John Irving? Check out The Nix by Nathan Hill. Click To Tweet
Yet, there’s a subtlety to it all. There are questions and messages that underpin the relationship between Samuel and his mother, but more importantly they underpin their relationships with themselves. The latter component of self-discovery and reflection is what makes The Nix such a gem – we all have things that haunt us, things we hide, and things we choose to share, and it is the combination of all three that shape who we are and how we see the world.
At nearly 650 pages, The Nix is not for the casual reader, but it’s well worth the time investment. It will capture your attention from the very beginning. The ebb and flow of the writing offers an incredible experience. Each time the story seems to slow down, a new layer is peeled back, leaving you racing through the pages. This is a book where the writing itself demands the book be savored without forcing it; and savor it I did.
Recommended for: John Irving fans and those who enjoy subtle reads that reveal characters over the course of the book.