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The Nix

By: Nathan Hill

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Imprint: Knopf

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781101946619

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On Sale: | Pages: 640

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A New York Times 2016 Notable BookEntertainment Weekly's #1 Book of the YearA Washington Post 2016 Notable BookA Slate Top Ten Book“Nathan Hill is a maestro.” —John Irving 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 an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints 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.
"The Nix" is smart without being pretentious - the novel mixes a family history with political, social, and academic commentary with Choose Your Own Adventure stories and a fictional World of Warcraft called Elfscape. There Samuel (aka Dodger the Elven Thief) feels more alive than he does teaching "Hamlet" to deeply unmotivated students.... But in addition to being a smart novel, "The Nix" is an empathetic one...
—Christian Science Monitor
...a feat of levitation that wears its seriousness lightly and functions almost as smelling salts for the imagination. Like Emma Cline's “The Girls,” Hill's 625-page joyride of a novel seeks both to anchor itself in a sensibility that is eminently contemporary, crackling with cool irony and flippant outrage, and to tunnel back into recent history with the preconception-shifting power that first-rate fiction has a unique power to summon.... This is a book to get one excited not only about Hill and his future as a novelist, but also about the power of writing to blot out background-noise banality and vault us forward into the new and wondrous.
—San Francisco Chronicle
It sounds dizzying, but the multiple story lines are dexterously juggled and well paced, even if the joints between the novel's 10 sections are a little creaky, with flashback-priming segues out of a hokey screenplay.... Hill has so much talent to burn that he can pull off just about any style, imagine himself into any person and convincingly portray any place or time. “The Nix” is hugely entertaining and unfailingly smart, and the author seems incapable of writing a pedestrian sentence or spinning a boring story.... But the novel Hill has assembled is so diffuse in its tones, settings and cast that it never gives the reader a chance to plant himself in its emotional soil.... Which is too bad, because Hill is such a gifted and tenderhearted storyteller that “The Nix” doesn't need these postmodern digressions and gimmicks. When he earnestly explores the fears and desires of humans, whatever conventional familiarity they may have dissolves under his adroit narrative control and nuanced attention to language and psychology.
—New York Times
“The Nix” is a durable, entertaining, at times harshly skeptical novel.... “The Nix” aspires to both the sweep and social critique of the past generation's big-book authors — Tartt, Franzen, Eugenides. Hill, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, has the style and bravado to belong in that company, and a candor that, if he can sustain it, suggests a brash new path as well.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Authors are rarely so candid — or correct — about their own work. “The Nix” presents that strain of gigantism unique to debut novelists who fear this will be their only shot. The book practically tears off its own binding in its desperation to contain every aside, joke, riff and detour.... It's customary with these huge, super-hyped novels for someone involved to claim, defensively, that hundreds of pages were sacrificed during the editorial process — I'm looking at you, “City on Fire” — but hundreds more pages could have been sliced away from “The Nix.” And yet there's no denying what a brilliant, endearing writer Hill is. If there's an excess of “The Nix,” it's an excess of wily storytelling.... “The Nix” darts erratically from poignant realism to deadpan looniness. Hill is a sharp social observer, hyper-alert to the absurdities of modern life, but if there are any life lessons, they're uncomfortable ones about the way a son and his mother have been crippled by history and their own longing.
—Washington Post
Hill is an uncommonly profound observer, illuminating much about the relationships between parents and children. Yet amid all its searching and yearning, The Nix remains impressively light on its feet, finding humor in its characters' plights without ever getting snide about them. Though The Nix captures the 1960s and the 1980s with impressive authority, the novel reaches its greatest heights in depicting our modern moment.... This is a stylistically agile book, and Hill has an impersonator's uncanny ability to take on wildly different registers from chapter to chapter. The Nix's pleasures are similar to those of a short story collection: each shapely chapter is a rich journey in its own right. Hill clearly knows the pleasure of a plot twist, and readers looking to the larger story for their enjoyment will find plenty to keep them hooked as well.
—USA Today
Careful readers will delight in small details that pop up in different parts of the narrative, in surprising questions that are raised early and then answered a hundred pages later. THE NIX is a sprawling novel, but in the best way. It creates a world that, despite its characters' foibles and imperfections, readers will delight to inhabit.
In detailing the fraught relationship between a woman accused of hurling rocks at a presidential candidate and the adult son she abandoned years earlier, Hill has produced a big, generous novel fueled by themes more universal than political belief. Regret and forgiveness haunt The Nix, even when it gets so laugh-out-loud funny that reading it in public becomes risky.
—Dallas Morning News
Nathan Hill's first novel, “The Nix," is bursting at the seams with all that it wants to contain.... The novel has real strengths, especially Hill's ability to integrate historical detail smoothly into a well-orchestrated plot. But “The Nix" isn't a complete success. It's a cliché to say that a first novel could use a good pruning, but this one really could.... The prose also is uneven.... While reading, I kept thinking about how much “The Nix" resembles the work of Jonathan Franzen.... This isn't to accuse Hill of derivativeness. The cult of originality is overrated anyway. Yet it's worth remembering that “Freedom" is a great novel not because of its hot takes but because of Franzen's writing, the sentence-by-sentence brilliance of his prose. Hill's writing never rises to that level. “The Nix" is a good but not great novel — not so much “Freedom 2.0" as its lesser, still impressive cousin.
—Boston Globe
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