Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Nix by Nathan Hill

I really am ready for spring! I need the snow and ice to melt and the temperature to rise. I want to see green shoots peeking out of the rough ground. I know here we still have a long way to go. 

Reading is one of the ways we get through the long winter and during the month of February I've spent a lot of quality time with one book-The Nix.  Just me and 732 pages of writing from Nathan Hill. It's a good thing I liked it. It's long with lots of characters and a variety of twists and turns. There is A lot going on in this novel. 

Most of the plot lines center around Samuel, a professor at a small midwestern school.  His mother abandoned him as a boy and now as an adult she's suddenly in the news for throwing rocks at a presidential candidate.  Samuel would rather just ignore it except for the book publisher who knows there's an interesting story there.  We travel back in time to see his mother, Faye, as she leaves her small Iowa home with her disgruntled parents behind as she embarks on a new stage of her life in Chicago. 

In between we meet a cast of characters from Samuel's and Faye's early life and travel as far away as Norway.  We meet gaming friends and learn about this complex world of Elfscape as we watch Samuel deal with a humorous yet cheating college student who has an unusual grasp of how the world should work. So much going on yet I was never confused. Everyone's lives are multilayered and every story, every offshoot matters in this tale. 

It reminded me of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara because of its length and detailed writing. Here's a sample of detail from The Nix:
So that day he felt like he needed to cry. He told his mother he was going to his room to read, which was not unusual. He spent most of his time alone in his room, reading the Choose your own adventure books he bought from the bookmobile at school. He liked how the books looked on the shelf, all together like that, homogenous, with their white-and-red spines and titles like Lost on the Amazon, Journey to Stonehenge, Planet of the Dragons. He liked the books forking paths, and when he came to a particularly difficult decision, he would hold the page with his thumb and read ahead, verifying that it was an acceptable choice.  The books had a clarity and a symmetry to them that he found mostly absent in the real world. (83-84)
I've already added it to my shopping list for upcoming birthdays and holidays. This is Nathan Hill's first published novel and he seems like a bit of character himself. I listened to this interview to learn more. Give it a try; any good novel is worth the time you put into it and this one is a huge success for Mr. Hill.

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