The Nix by Nathan Hill is probably one of the most unique and sarcastic takes on a coming-of-age story, that I have ever read. This big boy, coming in at 723 pages, has been sitting on my shelf for quite awhile. The mood reader in me decided that now was the time. I won't lie, it took me weeks to finish, so if you read this one, be prepared to settle in and be book monogamous for a bit.
It's 2011 and Samuel Andresen-Anderson has not seen his mother, Faye, since she walked out the door when he was a young boy. She is now back in his life and is the center of a controversial and political criminal investigation. Samuel embarks on a journey to learn who his mother was, before she was his mother, and if the image the media is painting of her as a radical 1960s leftist has any merit to the girl next door who married her high school sweetheart he knows as his mom.
I love when a book centers around the nuances of parenthood. I often find myself telling my own kids that "once upon a time, I was cool." It is interesting to think that we don't truly know our parents. At least, in the sense, that we don't know who they were before they were our parents. They basically lived an entire life before we came along, but we often don't think of that.
Samuel is in that predicament. The media is portraying his mother in a light that is so far beyond the woman he knew as his mother. Told from multiple perspectives and with a dual timeline, the truth behind Faye's decision on that fateful day in 2011 slowly unfolds. I wasn't sure why some of the characters were in this book, because they seemed out of left field and like they had nothing to do with Faye and Samuel's story. But Hill somehow weaves them into the main plot in a way that is truly impressive.
Hill's writing is full of witty and sarcastic dialogue that reminded me of John Boyne. I laughed out loud several times while reading this story and there was no shortage of quotes I wanted to piece out and save forever. I also loved how current the themes of this story are. This is a #backlistbook and I am sure Hill did not write this book thinking it would be incredibly relevant in 2021. The racial division, protests, riots, police brutality, and corrupt political figures felt like he was writing a current day story, not one set in the 1960s and 2011.
There were so many things I enjoyed about The Nix and Hill's writing. I will be keeping an eye out for anything he publishes in the future.
4.5 - 5 stars
"It was easy to forget when looking at the chaos of the cereal aisle that all these hundreds of options were actually one option."
"Children don't have to know everything about their parents."
"He's like the most dangerous species of American there is: heterosexual white male who didn't get what he wanted."
"The protestors and the police, the progressives and the authoritarians-they require each other, they create each other, because they need an opponent to demonize. The best way to feel like you really belong to a group is to invent another group to hate."
"Ander was such an easy emotion to feel, the refuge of someone who didn't want to work too hard."
Read if you liked:
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne