Book 96 of my 2016 Reading Challenge
read from November 07 - December 31
The Nix by Nathan Hill
Summary (via the book jacket)
A Nix can take many forms. In Norwegian folklore, it is a spirit who sometimes appears as a white horse that steals children away. In Nathan Hill's remarkable first novel, a Nix is anything you love that one day disappears, taking with it a piece of your heart.
It's 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson - college professor, stalled writer - has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn't seen her 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, beguiles the internet, 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.
From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores - with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness - the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.
There has been a lot of hype about this book and for me, it didn't live up to my expectations. I like the author's writing style and would read him again but this particular book was very ambitious and felt like too many plots.
The "Choose Your Own Adventure" part was riveting and I really liked Faye's storyline as well as the characters from her past but I skimmed the parts with Nathan and the student as well as all of Pwnage's sections.
I loved this line, about the protestors making out the night before the riots: "Tonight, it was carnal. Tomorrow, carnage."
"Sometimes we're so wrapped up in our own story that we don't see how we're supporting characters in someone else's" is an absolute truth.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"If Samuel had know his mother was leaving, he might have paid more attention. He might have listened more carefully to her, observed her more closely, written certain crucial things down. Maybe he could have acted differently, been a different person.
Maybe he could have been a child worth sticking around for."
"Any problem you face in a video game or in life is one of four things: an enemy, obstacle, puzzle, or trap...You have to be careful, Pwnage said, with people who are puzzles and people who are traps. A puzzle can be solved but a trap cannot. Usually what happens is you think someone's a puzzle until you realize they're a trap. But by then it's too late. That's the trap."
"She'd decided that about eighty percent of what you believe about yourself when you're twenty turns out to be wrong. The problem is you don't know what your small true part is until much later."
"Sometimes what we avoid most is not pain but mystery."
"Something does not have to happen for it to feel real."