The Nix
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 re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint 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 Details

TitleThe Nix
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 30th, 2016
PublisherKnopf
ISBN110194661X
ISBN-139781101946619
Number of pages628 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Audiobook

The Nix Review

  • Will Byrnes
    December 8, 2016
    Picking out a quote to open a review of The Nix is no small undertaking. There are so many from which to choose. So I am just tossing this small selection out there up front. Feel free to choose your own opening quote. ”…when all you have is the memory of a thing,” she said, “all you can think about is how the thing is gone.” The things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst. …given enough time, any weight can become too much to bear..despite what the newspapers said, it was not the t Picking out a quote to open a review of The Nix is no small undertaking. There are so many from which to choose. So I am just tossing this small selection out there up front. Feel free to choose your own opening quote. ”…when all you have is the memory of a thing,” she said, “all you can think about is how the thing is gone.” The things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst. …given enough time, any weight can become too much to bear..despite what the newspapers said, it was not the time of free love. It was the time of free-love writing, when free love was widely condemned, rarely practiced, and terrifically marketed.Something does not have to happen for it to feel real.What you call conflict of interest, I call synergy.…if a new beginning is really new, it will feel like a crisis. Any real change should make you feel, at first, afraid. If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change. Check, please. Samuel Andreson-Anderson has been bailing on his own life for a long time. A professor at a college in suburban Chicago, he is beset by a clinically narcissistic pathological plagiarist of a student who puts all her considerable talent and energy into bailing on doing her assignments, while seeing that others are left holding the bag for her misdeeds. It would be funnier if we had not just elected her spiritual twin to the White House, or maybe that is why it is so darkly funny. Sam is not exactly having a great life, numbing the pain of his failure with endless hours playing an interactive role-playing game, Elfscape, in which his name is, appropriately, Dodger. He had a story published some years back, even got a book deal. The only problem is that he has been unable to produce a book. His publisher wants that hefty advance back, and Sam, needless to say, is a touch light at the moment. Maybe the root of his problem has to do with his mother leaving him and his father when he was nine-years-old, never to be seen again.Nathan Hill - from his siteIn Chicago, a particularly toxic Wyoming politician by the name of Sheldon Packer, with his entourage and media wake, is heading through Grant Park when a sixty-year-old woman picks up a handful gravel and heaves the lot in his general direction, with the vocal accompaniment, “You Pig.” The press being what the press is, she is instantly labeled The Packer Attacker. Soon identified as having attended a Chicago protest during the 1968 Democratic Convention, she is quickly labeled a terrorist. It is learned, also, that she had been charged with prostitution back then. The judge assigned to her case, it turns out, has a personal vendetta against her. She is Sam’s mother. Check, please. Faye Andreson-Anderson, now a teaching assistant, had given her all to getting the life she wanted. But the thing she most wanted turned out to wield the sharpest blades, and so she fled. No, not Sam and her husband, before that. Bailing on Sam and Henry came later. But of course she had learned her lessons somewhere. Seems that bailing was a bit of a family tradition, and just why was it that her father had always seemed so sad? She remained in people’s good graces by being exactly who they wanted her to be. She aced every test. She won every academic award the school offered. When the teacher assigned a chapter from a book, Faye went ahead and read the whole book. Then read every book written by that author that was available at the town library. There was not a subject at which she did not excel…Everyone said she had a good head on her shoulders…She was always smiling and nodding, always agreeable. It was difficult to dislike her, for there was nothing to dislike—she was accommodating, docile, self-effacing, compliant, easy to get along with. Her outward personality had no hard edges to bump into. Everyone agreed that she was really nice. To her teachers. Faye was the achiever, the quiet genius at the back of the room. They gushed about her at conferences, noting especially her discipline and drive.It was, Faye knew, all an elaborate game. From the opening epigraph, which recounts the familiar tale of several blind men being asked to evaluate an object, but only being allowed to touch one part of it, and coming up with diverse notions that somehow do not combine to form the elephant they touched, we can expect that the characters in The Nix will have different perspectives on the events about to unfold. And so Nathan Hill shows us the beast, part by part, until the whole gray, wrinkly hide and pachydermy shape becomes a bit clearer. The Nix covers this estranged mother and son, looking at Faye’s 1968 journey, Sam as a kid in 1988, a teacher, obsessive gamer, and failed writer in 2011, with a quick side trip to 2004. Hill ties these together with notable protests, the 1968 Democratic Convention events, or police riot, the 2004 demonstration in New York City against the Republican Convention, and the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park. Hill clearly did a lot of homework for his descriptions of the Chicago events. His tale of that time sings. Much less so for the latter demos, although he does toss in some nice details of both. It is the Chicago one that matters most.The Nix of the title is a tricky beast, in two varieties, a legend Faye’s Norwegian father brought across the ocean with him, along with a penchant for silence, a sour take on life, and a large secret. It is a house spirit, a basement-dwelling, slimmed-down Santa-looking sort that is easily offended. Once you insult this ghost, once you piss off a nisse, it will torment you wherever you go, for the rest of your days. When Faye passes on the nisse legend to Sam, it has become a beautiful white horse, a most desirable thing, that, once achieved will cause your destruction. This is a novel of both ideas and feeling. Sam and Faye are damaged people, carriers of a family curse, seemingly doomed to go through lives rich with both hope and dreams and the crushing disappointment that inevitably follows. For those of us who have not found non-stop success in our lives, it is not hard to relate to folks who have been hurt so deeply by forces beyond their control, and who have made things even worse with their own mis-steps. Sam likes to think of life as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book in which it would be really great if you could mark the page where each decision was made, and go back to make a different choice, if the one you made the first time did not work out as hoped. How many of us would pass up a chance at that? Sam, as a teacher, being beset by a clearly dark force in the form of a horror of a student, works well to get us on his side as well. Faye endures a Perils of Pauline sequence, starting with a less than supportive set of parents, who drive her to a place she really does not want to go. While one may take issue with her decisions, and how she goes about them, one can certainly appreciate the pain and stresses that drive her choices. Most of the characters, primary and secondary, guard core secrets that drive their lives. It does make one stop and think about what secrets might drive ours. The ideas piece covers a lot of turf. This is very much a social satire. The media and its manipulation comes in for a particularly searing look, most pointedly where it intersects with politics. Of course it’s getting harder and harder to write satire these days, as events and the surreality of the real keep leap-frogging whatever writers dream up. A 1968 cop who doffs his badge and name tag to whale on protesters without being identifiable seems a lesser version of the current spate of blue on black violence. A sociopathic student with political aspirations could hardly seem more ridiculous that the results of the 2016 election. And the ideology-free media whoredom of one of the characters has already been far outshone by Steve Bannon, although it is clear that Bannon is far from ideology-free. A 1960s home ec teacher does for feminism what Donald Trump does for honesty. Hill knows a thing or two about his subject matter. Sam’s gaming certainly sings with the siren song of familiarity. Hill was a young writer taking his shot in New York, and enduring the all-too-familiar writerly experience of finding no takers for his work, well, not enough anyway. Twenty to forty hours a week with World of Warcraft eased or at least distracted him from that pain. He has done some time as a college instructor so can speak to some of the horrors that entails, even if the horror he describes, in what we take to be satire, feels a little too true, certainly behavior that would not be beyond many a contemporary politician. Even his choose-you-own entry has a personal root. Mr. Hill knew from the time he was in elementary school that he wanted to be a writer. In second grade, he wrote a choose-your-own-adventure story about a brave knight trying to rescue a princess from a haunted castle. He titled it “The Castle of No Return” and illustrated it himself. (“The Castle of No Return” still sits in a box somewhere in his parents’ attic, but Mr. Hill sneaked the story into “The Nix,” during a pivotal flashback to Samuel’s childhood.) - from the NY Times profile And Hill has worked as a journalist as well, so has good touch-and-feel for that end of things. There is also an aroma of the cynicism and false equivalence that has made a mockery of much of modern journalism, and that detracted from the story. I took the following to indicate more than the cynicism of the character but to indicate the author’s take as well “What’s true? What’s false? In case you haven’t noticed, the world has pretty much given up on the old Enlightenment idea of piecing together the truth based on observed data. Reality is too complicated and scary for that. Instead, it’s way easier to ignore all data that doesn’t fit your preconceptions and believe all data that does. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe, and we’ll all agree to disagree. It’s liberal tolerance meets dark ages denialism. It’s very hip right now. ““This sounds awful.”“We are more politically fanatical than ever before, more religiously zealous, more rigid in our thinking, less capable of empathy. The way we see the world is totalizing and unbreakable. We are completely avoiding the problems that diversity and worldwide communication imply. Thus, nobody cares about antique ideas like true or false. Actually, there is a definite tilt in how the sides of the political spectrum view reality. One side actually cares about facts, about the truth. The other side does not. And I am not talking about the Bernie bros who seem to equate Hillary with the Donald. Within the mainstream of the Democratic Party and what used to be the saner elements of the Republican Party, facts matter. With what has become the dominant strain of the Republican Party, they do not. So, while this element does make my blood boil a bit, the elevated mercury level does not take away from the fact that The Nix is a pretty amazing book. It covers a lot of territory, without losing its human element. It offers intriguing and well-woven themes, relatable characters, thoughtful (if sometimes questionable) social analysis, a fair bit of grim humor and that satisfying feeling, once one has read its 620 pages (trimmed down from over a thousand), that you have read a major work. If you haven’t read this one yet, you should. And I am outta here. Check, please. Review Posted – December 9, 2016Publication Date – August 30, 2016=============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pagesEssay by Hill for Powell’s on playing Dungeons and Dragons.Profile of Hill in the NY Times – August 27, 2016 He pilfered so much from his own life that he had to reassure his mother that Faye was not based on her. “I had to warn my mom, ‘Some of this is going to sound very familiar to you,’” he said.Interviews-----Print - In conversation with John Irving - this one is a cornucopia of insight into the novel. Must read if you want to dig into this book. For example:I was also writing this during our great recession, which was in part caused by the things we thought were so safe they were eventually risk-free. Things like mortgage-backed securities, AAA-rated sovereign debt. The retirement that you’ve been working all your life for suddenly gone in a flash. And so one of the things I was thinking about was that kind of economic anxiety that was happening in the country while I was composing the novel and it seemed to be that, yeah, the reason why the financial crisis was a crisis was because we believed that things were so safe as to be risk-free. We thought they were too good to be true, so the housing market could never fail, you know, and so I guess that helped me connect the personal stories with the political, it helped me see what’s happened between this mother and this son is happening writ large in the rest of the country.-----Video - PBS interview - 11:20-----Audio - Minnestoa Public Radio----------BookTalkJanuary 27, 2017 - I know, I know, say it ain't so, but here we are offering a link to a George Will column, one that speaks to the stress Samuel encounters in attempting to apply academic standards to his toxic student. We take our common ground where we find it. - Trump and academia actually have a lot in common.
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  • Elyse
    November 21, 2016
    All I knew about "The Nix" before I started reading my 625 page physical book, was the 'few' things I heard, ( "GOOD", "GREAT", "TERRIFIC WRITING", "SIMILAR to JONATHAN FRANZEN"......all of which I agree by the way), but I purposely have not read reviews-yet. I'm tempted to now....but I'll wait -- enjoy what other readers have to say soon. Not one person told me how incredibly ENJOYABLE the STORYTELLING was. IMMEDIATELY I was pulled into the wonderful world of fiction. FANTASTIC NOVEL...one of m All I knew about "The Nix" before I started reading my 625 page physical book, was the 'few' things I heard, ( "GOOD", "GREAT", "TERRIFIC WRITING", "SIMILAR to JONATHAN FRANZEN"......all of which I agree by the way), but I purposely have not read reviews-yet. I'm tempted to now....but I'll wait -- enjoy what other readers have to say soon. Not one person told me how incredibly ENJOYABLE the STORYTELLING was. IMMEDIATELY I was pulled into the wonderful world of fiction. FANTASTIC NOVEL...one of my years favorites- for SURE!!! In the prologue- summer 1988 - Samuel ( narrator), describes how his mother, slowly, bit, by bit "whittled down her life until the only thing left to remove was herself". "On the day she disappeared, she left the house with a single suitcase". Part 1 - late summer 2011 - "GOVERNOR, SHELDON PACKER, of Chicago, is ATTACKED". The woman accused of the attack is Faye Andersen-Anderson. She is a teaching assistant at a local elementary school....considered a sixties radical hippie prostitute teacher. We will be introduced to Guy Periwinkle- ( publisher) -- He and Sam will have there own running theme throughout this novel about Sam's novel which isn't finished for which he had received advance payment. Samuel Anderson, is in his 30's, a College Literature Professor at a small University northwest of Chicago. He is also a struggling writer, and a game player in the virtual world. His game choice is "World of Elfscape". Samual plays 'Elfscape' from his University office, because he gets faster Internet connection than at home. There's a hilarious scene about a student, Laura Pottsdam,(who wears sweatshorts with various words written across the butt), who handed in a plagiarized paper. Laura is arguing with Samuel saying she did not cheat. Samuel is saying that according to the software, her essay came from FreeTermPapers.com. Laura says she never heard of it. Many more rounds of argument continue. ... BUT reallyREALLY continued!!! ( crying, threats, drama-at-it's-best).....One of the funniest 'student/teacher' dialogues ever!!!Sam learns his mother -whom he has not seen for 20 years, is "Packer Attacker" The plan is.... Samual will write a book about his mother-- a biography, an expose, a tell all. Hopefully this will satisfy Guy Periwinkle -his publisher for that advance check he received, too.Part Two - Late Summer 1988- "Ghosts of the Old Country" .... is another page turning section. We are taken back to when Sam was just a boy. We get an inside look at his childhood - Sams disposition, his sensitivities, insecurities, fears, and relationship with his mother. Reading "Choose Your Own Adventure books", gave him comfort when his mother sent him to his room to read - or if he felt he needed to cry. In August of 1988.... it's the month that Sam considers it his final month with his mother, even though she doesn't really physically walk out for a few more years. But for abstract reasons, all he knew is this was the month.... a time he need to cry often. Constantly crying. I read the next few pages very carefully- and parts two and three times -- as I was picking up lots of deeper clues as to what might be coming down the pipes further into the novel .. plus I was sad. There is a scene when Faye tells little Sam to bring 9 toys and put them in his wagon as they are going for a walk... I felt for this little kid. And when there was a moment when Sam buried his face in the hot passenger seat weeping, with his mother sitting next to him....I somehow knew - like Sam knew -at that moment he was alone in the world. Whatever illusions he had for protection from his mothers love- was gone. And soon we learn why this book is called "The Nix". To me it's so much the heart of this story - that EVERYTHING I read after --no matter what direction it spins off into...family matters of anger - resentments - of understanding the past - and healing old scars, or the democratic convention in Chicago 1968, the Republican convention in New York, protests of Wall Street, childhood friends, the news media, or the crazy crime that brings Faye Andersen-Anderson into the limelight....I couldn't help but to think about the 'duo' NIX.The first Nix... comes from the Ghost Story that Faye's father told her when she was a child back in Norway. THE PLOT OF THE STORY IS THE SAME for NIX 1 and Nix 2.....( which is a story that once read once is very hard to forget)....But in NIX 1..... The moral of the story ends with: "Don't trust things that are too good to be true". In NIX 2....Faye changes the moral of the story for 'little Sam' to:"Things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst". Sam cries! I wanted to fricken hit Faye Andersen-Anderson at that moment. Moving on..... Also in Part 2, we meet childhood friends Bishop and Bethany who are twins - brother and sister. Again we are taken deeper into in life of Sam. We are getting to know him more. We still have much to learn about his mother. Later we will meet other characters in this expanding saga: Allen Ginsberg, Pwnage, street people, etc. Part 3 late summer 2011... enemy, obstacle, puzzle, trap Sam meets his mother after 20 years - asks why she threw rocks at the governor Laura is back in the story ( always fun when she takes center stage) Memories with mom & dad & grandpa FrankPart 4 Spring 1968 The house SpiritFaye and Henry go to Senior Prom- fall in love - There are secrets Father daughter problems. Faye will either get closer to her father are fling apart forever. Part 10.... Late Summer 2011 Deleveraging. Sam- Faye - GuyI hope by writing this review the way I have - you get a glimpse of the structure. There are 10 parts. I did this hoping that readers can see, that when you break the book down it actually reads rather quickly, fluidly, and it's deeply emotional. At the book's core - this is a story about a son and his mother...but it's also about family, politics, love, lovers, loss, regret, truth, devotion, and the gritty pains of life. Nathan Hill's novel is a brilliant achievement- poignant- entertaining-and becomes impossible to resist. Sooooo soooo ENJOYABLE!!!!
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  • Cynthia
    May 25, 2016
    Guys: I know it's early but I'm going to proclaim this the best book I've read this year. I'm not kidding. I was sucked into this book from the first few pages, and couldn't put it down (at 600 pages, it was quite the arm exercise). Characters are all believably flawed without being dumb, the storyline makes sense, it all gets wrapped up at the end but leaves some questions unanswered (so we can talk about them in book club, weee!). The writing is superb. Lots of different styles, which normall Guys: I know it's early but I'm going to proclaim this the best book I've read this year. I'm not kidding. I was sucked into this book from the first few pages, and couldn't put it down (at 600 pages, it was quite the arm exercise). Characters are all believably flawed without being dumb, the storyline makes sense, it all gets wrapped up at the end but leaves some questions unanswered (so we can talk about them in book club, weee!). The writing is superb. Lots of different styles, which normally drives me a little nuts because the author is trying to show off, but here it works. The book makes observations about many different things through the dialogue of the characters, so I will have to re-read it to underline some things. Your empathy for characters changes as you learn more about them (sometimes with these types of books, I don't really care about the supporting characters and jump over their chapters. Here, I did not). This book is entirely unpretentious, a slow burn of a read that will make you think these characters are people you actually know. I can't wait to hear what others think.
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  • Justin
    December 2, 2016
    Update: This book deserves five stars. It's fantastic. Read it. Ignore the math below. Well, Goodreaders, remember that time over the summer when I cheated on my library and found a smaller, closer library in a nearby town? Yeah, that's still going on. See my review of The Green Mile for more details, but things are going very well between us. So far I've picked up The Green Mile, Rabbit Run, and The Nix from this new library of mine, and those three books are some of my favorite reads of the ye Update: This book deserves five stars. It's fantastic. Read it. Ignore the math below. Well, Goodreaders, remember that time over the summer when I cheated on my library and found a smaller, closer library in a nearby town? Yeah, that's still going on. See my review of The Green Mile for more details, but things are going very well between us. So far I've picked up The Green Mile, Rabbit Run, and The Nix from this new library of mine, and those three books are some of my favorite reads of the year. My ratings for these books average 4.66666 six six six six six repeating. Very impressive, especially for an overly critical reviewer like me. Anyway, I was skeptical of this book from the very beginning since it kept showing up in my feed as a sponsored book. Over and over and over again. And those big colorful letters, I just couldn't help but recognize it in the library. The giant font and colors on the spine screamed at me from the shelf. I saw it and thought about how I keep seeing it everywhere and so I immediately felt like it couldn't be that great. If it were so awesome why does Goodreads have to keep marketing it to me? But those bright colors, man. I couldn't resist. So I grab the book and rush over to check out. I got home and I started wondering why I even picked it up. The plot seemed interesting, but I'm not really a 600+ page book kinda guy. I like books to be about half that size. But then I started reading and I got sucked into the story right away. I was knocking out dozens of pages without even thinking about it. I put it down for a few days and came back to it and couldn't put it down again. Now that I've finished it, I'm missing the characters I spent so much time with throughout this journey. And what a journey is was! It bounces around to different characters and time periods with pretty short chapters that keep the pages turning. This guy is hilarious, too, with some chapters making me laugh out loud... I'm looking at you Pwnage. Yep, he's a character in this crazy story. So much happens in the book and the author goes on some tangents at times that pull away from he main plot, but it's all so fun to read. At times I was bummed because I got to a new section and had to go back in time again, but those sections were just as engaging and fun to read. It's pretty impressive that this is Hill's first book. He definitely has the formula down and can weave a fantastic story together. I'm really looking forward to seeing what else this guy can do. He made me a believer with just a few pages. I'm telling you, this story is gonna stick with you. If you are a hippie, War protestor, online gaming enthusiast, professor, college student, musician, trouble maker, publisher, liberal, or just a regular person who loves a great story with lots of humor, this is a book you need to read soon. Don't throw rocks at politicians.
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  • Paromjit
    December 27, 2016
    This is a smart and terrific novel that packs one hell of a punch. It is a sprawling and intricate puzzle that goes back and forth in time to eventually make sense. It is a satire of the politics and media with timely observations and insights of the state of the nation captured in a clever and astute manner. There is the dissection of the lives of Sam, his mother, Faye and other characters. The eponymous Nix is Norwegian in origin, a metaphor, a tricky house spirit/ghost/white horse that is eas This is a smart and terrific novel that packs one hell of a punch. It is a sprawling and intricate puzzle that goes back and forth in time to eventually make sense. It is a satire of the politics and media with timely observations and insights of the state of the nation captured in a clever and astute manner. There is the dissection of the lives of Sam, his mother, Faye and other characters. The eponymous Nix is Norwegian in origin, a metaphor, a tricky house spirit/ghost/white horse that is easily offended and proceeds to curse and destroy your entire life. In 2011, Sam is a video games junkie and a washed up literature professor in a mediocre Chicago college. He has failed to produce a book for which his publisher, Guy Periwinkle, issued a significant advance. His mother, Faye, left the family when he was a young boy. Faye is now a teaching assistant who throws a rock at repulsive, right wing, Wyoming politician, Sheldon Parker in Grant Park, Chicago and refers to him as 'You pig'. This incident is an internet sensation and the media go into overdrive labelling Faye a prostitute and terrorist. A bitter Sam reconnects with Faye which propels him to delve into her life. We learn more about Sam's life and a more human picture emerges of Sam and Faye. It turns out they have much in common. We have the ongoing saga of Sam and the off the rails Laura, a plagiarist student, who will do anything to escape the consequences of her actions.There are many perspectives given and multiple twists. Short chapters keep the story moving and the reader absorbed in the book. More than anything it is the wonderful characters that drive the story. It is a novel with big ideas and themes. There is family conflict and secrets and it hones in on the idea of how we see ourselves. It touches on relationships, trust and loyalty with friends, lovers, parents and children. It is cynical, full of intrigue and has plentiful humour. A fantastic story that captures the US in its current state so well. For me, it is an irresistable and brilliant read. Highly recommended. Thanks to Pan MacMillan for an ARC.
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  • Rohisa
    March 14, 2017
    I fall in love too quickly and too easily. Particularly with books. I am a sucker for anyone with a typewriter and a hot hand with the language. Tell me a story and I am your best friend, your perfect ear, for as long as you can sustain it. So when the problem starts? So few can really sustain it. My slutty history with books is littered with those that I loved and then abandoned when the going got rough — novels dog-eared and loose in the bindings up to page 150 or so, then dropped the minute I fall in love too quickly and too easily. Particularly with books. I am a sucker for anyone with a typewriter and a hot hand with the language. Tell me a story and I am your best friend, your perfect ear, for as long as you can sustain it. So when the problem starts? So few can really sustain it. My slutty history with books is littered with those that I loved and then abandoned when the going got rough — novels dog-eared and loose in the bindings up to page 150 or so, then dropped the minute the passion cooled.The Nix is 620 pages long. My last dog-ear is on page 613. It's nothing important. Just a chronicle of our modern times - the college student's attitude, the flawed hero with mommy issues, the mommy with daddy issues, the confused young adolescent, the MMO addict... All wrapped into a startlingly accurate setting of media and culture. It's, frankly, alarming how accurate the author portrays these things (and how my description fails to illustrate the depth of the plot)Hill's prose - austere and tempered when necessary, florid and baroque when required, yet always with a wink and smile - weaves the seemingly disconnected characters into a striking tapestry that is both grand when considered from afar and deeply, almost secretly affecting when viewed up close. It holds up a mirror to society and ourselves and it asks us - do you like what you see? I highly recommend this book.
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  • Cheri
    February 19, 2017
    Professor of English Samuel Andreson-Anderson's mother abandoned him when he was 11 years old – it has become an event that will continue to mark all of his days. It had never occurred to him before that he could not stop. Everyone stopped. But in the face of his mother’s goneness, all the world’s normal rules fell away. If she could leave, why couldn’t he? So he did. He walked away and was surprised how easy it was. He walked along the sidewalk, didn’t even attempt to run or hide. He walked in Professor of English Samuel Andreson-Anderson's mother abandoned him when he was 11 years old – it has become an event that will continue to mark all of his days. It had never occurred to him before that he could not stop. Everyone stopped. But in the face of his mother’s goneness, all the world’s normal rules fell away. If she could leave, why couldn’t he? So he did. He walked away and was surprised how easy it was. He walked along the sidewalk, didn’t even attempt to run or hide. He walked in plain view and nobody stopped him. Nobody said a word. He floated away. It was a whole new reality.But Professor Samuel Andreson-Anderson, Sam, really has nothing in his current life to run to, either. He should be working on his new book, but can’t recall the last time he really thought about it except in the way that one acknowledges those pesky thoughts that have a way of invading now and then. Reminders that he’s been paid an advance for a book he hasn’t written, hasn’t really worked on much lately. He goes to work at the University where he teaches twice a week, and that’s about all he does lately. That is, unless you count his online gaming life, Elfscape, where he goes to escape his real-life problems. What kept people where they were, in their normal orbits? Nothing, he realized for the first time. There was nothing to stop anyone from, on any given day, vanishing.It’s after one of these escapades when he finds out that his mother, after all these years, is now on the news. She’s the new “it” news, after she’s caught on video throwing rocks / stones / pebbles at a maybe-prospective Presidential candidate. And to add more emotionally draining news to that, the publisher that paid him that big advance? Now they want him to return it… or else, maybe, write a book about the woman the news is now calling “The Packer Attacker.” His mother. The woman he’s blocked from his thoughts for most of his life by now.Time heals many things because it sets us on trajectories that make the past seem impossible.A journey ensues, to visit her first, and then to try and reconstruct her life, his parent’s early lives, meeting people she knew in the brief time she lived in Chicago, the year she left their her home town, her parents’ home town, for college. A period of time, a particularly epic historical period of time, that changed her, formed her into a young woman who would never again be the girl who left home to live in Chicago. There are, ultimately, numerous detours in this journey, sometimes it may feel as though you’ve opened one too many doors in the Winchester Mystery House, an extravagant maze of a mansion known for its size, its curiosities and an apparent lack of a master building plan. However, The Nix most assuredly, does have a “master building plan” - it’s just not always apparent when you find yourself pondering where and when the exit will appear. As a debut novel, especially, this is astoundingly good, entertaining, appealing to several generations and spanning multiple genres: fairy-tales / folk tales, choose-your-own-adventures, family-relationships, politics, government, corruption, war, humour, historical fiction, gaming, social media, sexual abuse, the “sexual revolution,” police brutality and, ultimately, the impact that the years of our youth, friends, missing parents, have in forming the adults we, hopefully, eventually, become. Recommended
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  • Andrew Smith
    January 19, 2017
    I’d glanced at ratings for this book (uniformly four or five stars from my book reading friends) and had read enough of the accompanying commentaries to know that this was a big book (over 600 pages) covering a lump of time from the late 1960’s onward. I’d also gleaned that it was a family saga, with some political history thrown in for good measure. All good so far. What I’d no doubt have discovered if I’d dug a little deeper is that this book is brilliantly written in a style that reminded me I’d glanced at ratings for this book (uniformly four or five stars from my book reading friends) and had read enough of the accompanying commentaries to know that this was a big book (over 600 pages) covering a lump of time from the late 1960’s onward. I’d also gleaned that it was a family saga, with some political history thrown in for good measure. All good so far. What I’d no doubt have discovered if I’d dug a little deeper is that this book is brilliantly written in a style that reminded me of esteemed pensmiths such as Donna Tartt and Tom Wolfe. It also includes a wry and often hilarious look at how social media and online gaming have gainined such a foothold in the lives of so many people in the 21st Century.It’s a book that jumps back and forth in time. Early on we meet an eleven-year-old Samuel (Sam) Andresen-Anderson, a boy who cries a good deal. He is befriended by Bishop, a similarly aged, confident boy from his neighbourhood who already has career ambitions to be a soldier. Bishop introduces Sam to Bethany, his twin sister. Sam is instantly entranced by Bethany. The first major trauma in Sam’s life has already been signalled in the opening of the book but now it’s acted out in full: his mother, having clearly planned her escape in advance, walks away from the family home, never to return. Later the loose ends left by these early encounters and events will be fleshed out – deliciously so.As the story plays forward we see that Sam has become an English literature professor and is having problems with one of his students. Laura Pottsdam decided some time ago that cheating her way to a degree is the way to go and she’s not happy that Sam has rumbled the fact that her latest paper is an act of pure plagiarism. Sam really is too busy keeping up with her vast array of acquaintances on the social network iFeel to have time to actually research and write a paper of her own. Not one to bow down to authority, Laura will find a way of combatting her professor’s annoying accusation, that's for sure.Sam is very much the lead character here and it’s through him we continue to meet the rest of the cast, even as we start to realise what a mess his life really is. It would appear that as an aspiring writer he managed to secure a substantial advance for a book he has yet to write. The money is, of course, already spent and the publisher is now demanding the return of the lucre. To add to Sam’s woes, he has no woman in his life and all his non-working time is entirely taken up by his addiction to an on-line game called World of Elfscape (easily identified as a close cousin of a certain ever expanding game my nineteen-year-old son seems similarly addicted to!) We will spend quite a bit of time in Word of Elsfscape, where we will also meet ‘Pwnage’ the game name for a fellow gaming addict and acknowledged master Eflscape raider – and probably my favourite character of all. I’m not giving much away here as all these events occur very early on. From this point the fractured narrative takes us on a big ride through the decades as major events unfold, questions are asked and answered and the lives of our characters are lived. It’s a truly spectacular piece of fiction. The novel mixes serious observation on real events (though the author has confessed he took some liberties with the fine detail), deep personal tragedy and absolute hilarity. And it does all of this brilliantly well, whilst telling a complex and compelling story that kept me glued to the text throughout. If I were looking for a criticism, it might be that there are some sections that do jabber on a bit. Could some passages have been selectively pruned? Well yes, but I’m not sure that this would have improved the book, in fact I think it would have been to its overall detriment. I believe these rambles are part of the soul of this piece. The writing is top drawer and each character and each event has its place in the overall puzzle. At no point did I become lost in the maze or bored by a particular character or switched off by a protracted rant – it all fits together, it’s all part of the overall prize. Reading this book was a wonderful adventure and I’m really sad I’ll not be waking up tomorrow to eagerly gobble up the next chapter or two. I already miss it.My sincere thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Diane
    October 28, 2016
    This is a Big Bold Debut Novel that I thought was OK, but I didn't love it. At one point I was so frustrated with this book that I abandoned it.* Later I trudged back and decided to finish.The story is 600+ pages worth of complications. Samuel is a struggling writer and college professor. He is estranged from his mother, Faye, who gets caught in a media storm when she's videotaped throwing rocks at a political event. Samuel is offered a chance to salvage his book contract by writing a story abou This is a Big Bold Debut Novel that I thought was OK, but I didn't love it. At one point I was so frustrated with this book that I abandoned it.* Later I trudged back and decided to finish.The story is 600+ pages worth of complications. Samuel is a struggling writer and college professor. He is estranged from his mother, Faye, who gets caught in a media storm when she's videotaped throwing rocks at a political event. Samuel is offered a chance to salvage his book contract by writing a story about his mother, which pushes him to contact her for the first time in years. This plot device allows us to flash back to 1968, when Faye was involved in the countercultural movement and the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. We also learn the story of Faye's family, and see the forces that shaped her life.To sum up: this book is about a troubled mother-son relationship, mixed with political and social commentary. There were some passages and themes I liked, so I think a 3-star rating is fair. If you like Big Bold Debut Novels, you may like this.*Sidenote: My big complaint about this book is the negative portrayals of female characters. My first sign of a problem was the author's introduction of a young college student who was caught plagiarizing and then lied about cheating. The scenes with this young woman became so ridiculously hateful that I dreaded reading this book. The early descriptions of Faye were also negative, and when we jump back to Faye's youth, we meet more difficult women. I'm putting this comment in a sidenote because I was reading this book during a heated presidential election, when sexist comments and stories were daily in the news and circulating on social media. I am sensitive to sexist stories, and this novel was only adding to my outrage. So if you can overlook the sexism, you will probably enjoy this novel more than I did.
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  • Liz
    February 22, 2017
    I don't know if everyone will find this book as funny as I did. But to me, scenes were laugh out loud funny. When Laura gives all her excuses she shouldn't be failed for turning in a 99% plagiarized paper, I was beside myself. Professor Sam Anderson is a grammar nerd, so I immediately bonded with him, other than all the crying. Stuck teaching English literature to kids that don't care at a second rate college, he finds enjoyment playing online Elfin war games. The story veers between 2011 when S I don't know if everyone will find this book as funny as I did. But to me, scenes were laugh out loud funny. When Laura gives all her excuses she shouldn't be failed for turning in a 99% plagiarized paper, I was beside myself. Professor Sam Anderson is a grammar nerd, so I immediately bonded with him, other than all the crying. Stuck teaching English literature to kids that don't care at a second rate college, he finds enjoyment playing online Elfin war games. The story veers between 2011 when Sam agrees to write a book concerning his mother, who has achieved celebrity status for throwing stones at an ultra conservative presidential candidate, and the stories of both her and his youth. Great writing, great characters. I'm not sure who was my favorite, Laura or Guy. In one sense, both are peripheral characters, but in another, Hill saves some of his most biting sarcasm for these two. The novel is divided into ten sections. The story bogs down occasionally, which is the reason this is four, not five stars for me. In particular, I struggled with the sections written about Pwnage, Sam’s online gaming friend. This is a fast read for a book coming in at 628 pages. It is by turns funny, moving, philosophical and biting. It definitely doesn’t come across as a debut novel. It’ll be interesting to see where Nathan Hill goes from here.
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  • Ron
    July 21, 2016
    This is the story of two lives. A son and his mother. The thing is they hardly know one another. Samuel hasn’t seen his mother for over 20 years, when she walked out the door one day in 1988, before his eleventh birthday. Despite that they are very much the same person. Shaped by circumstance and choice. Damaged by a similar childhood experience and tied by genes which exhibit a very similar vulnerability.Strangely enough, it is the throwing of rocks at a governor, soon-to-be presidential candid This is the story of two lives. A son and his mother. The thing is they hardly know one another. Samuel hasn’t seen his mother for over 20 years, when she walked out the door one day in 1988, before his eleventh birthday. Despite that they are very much the same person. Shaped by circumstance and choice. Damaged by a similar childhood experience and tied by genes which exhibit a very similar vulnerability.Strangely enough, it is the throwing of rocks at a governor, soon-to-be presidential candidate, that will bring son and mom together once again. Those rocks are thrown by mom, Faye, and for a reason that will not be readily revealed. I got the feeling that the mid-thirties Samuel had been lost for quite some time. He’s now a literature professor, yet in undistinguished, small college in Chicago. He spends his free time playing online video games, and clinging to the thoughts of the girl he lost a long time ago, but underneath these things I glimpsed a character with strength. Where did that come from?Faye Andersen-Anderson. My impression of her early in the book: I really don’t like this woman. This radical still clinging to the sixties movement; uncaring wife; mother who loved her child, but who cannot bear the emotional weight and so she runs. This early impression was followed by the but that I did not expect: I didn’t really know her yet. I hadn’t seen the fuller picture. The childhood that shaped her; the hopes and dreams she once had; the things that occur in life which dash those dreams; and a love lost, or at least the chance of one. I saw all this and more after another of the author’s beautifully handled segues between the years. This segue to 1968, like the others to follow, transformed the picture I thought I knew into a whole other picture. The Faye of 1968 is not the Faye of 2011. Wait, because that’s not true either. At the opening of the book there’s a story told of some blind men who were each shown a piece of an elephant. The trunk, an ear, the tusk, etc. Then each blind man described an elephant by what he’d felt. This is an elephant. But each description was different, and so they argued. Later in the book there’s this description the young Faye of 1968 contrasted by the many mistakes and actions that combine to make the Faye of 2011, and she may look for the “true” self: ”In the story of the blind men and the elephant, what’s usually ignored is the fact that each man’s description was correct. What Faye won’t understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many other true ones. Yes, she is the meek and shy and industrious student. Yes, she is the panicky and frightened child. Yes, she is the bold and impulsive seductress. Yes, she is the wife, and mother. And many other things as well. Her belief that only one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn’t that they were blind – it’s that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp” I thought that was beautiful, and so adept to Faye’s life. I’ll take it a step further and say it describes Samuel as well.Here’s my highest praise: I did not want this book to end. It was filled with unexpected humor, these funny, laugh-out-loud moments that served so well to balance the serious and the emotional. I loved the characters, and reasoning behind what made them tick. And again, the author does a wonderful job by transitioning the story between the years. I was never bored.I will not go so far to say that this is the perfect book, but when I stop and think about that, I know there is no such thing. If I were to nit-pick, here are two small things I did not love:- Nathan Hill’s writing style is exceptional. I love the long sentence structure, but sometimes it was too much. One chapter literally included a single (yet be it a well structured one) sentence that continued for ten pages. Full truth: I loved the first 4 pages, or so, of that.- The end of the book felt rushed. For the most part, I’m okay with the conclusion of the story, but it did not match the fervor of the first 550 pages. And one character turns out to be a real assbag. Well, isn’t that just like life?Still, I’m staying with 5 stars because overall, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. In part, it reminded me of books like I Know This Much Is True and The Goldfinch (not the same story by any means, but emotionally similar). I can’t say everyone will like it, but I think many could potentially love it.
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  • Emily
    July 6, 2016
    Abandoned around page 240. I think this book will receive rave reviews - it already has from many readers with great taste, including Cynthia! - but I just couldn't get into it. It reads like a cross between Franzen and The Art of Fielding , a book that I found so pleasantly inoffensive and forgettable that I had to Google its title last week. If you enjoy contemporary fiction that attempts to Say Something About America in the most sweeping, arch, I-got-my-MFA-and-live-in-Brooklyn way, then I t Abandoned around page 240. I think this book will receive rave reviews - it already has from many readers with great taste, including Cynthia! - but I just couldn't get into it. It reads like a cross between Franzen and The Art of Fielding , a book that I found so pleasantly inoffensive and forgettable that I had to Google its title last week. If you enjoy contemporary fiction that attempts to Say Something About America in the most sweeping, arch, I-got-my-MFA-and-live-in-Brooklyn way, then I think this book will work for you. To be fair, it probably would have worked for me if I had been in the right mood. Alas.
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  • Ron Charles
    June 13, 2016
    Nathan Hill’s whirling debut novel, “The Nix,” blasts off with an assault on Gov. Sheldon Packer, a fire-breathing, anti-immigrant presidential candidate who may remind you of a certain reality-TV star with size anxiety. A video clip shot by some modern-day Zapruder shows a middle-aged woman shouting, “You pig!” and throwing something at Packer, who, by the grace of God, survives. (The “weapon” was just a handful of gravel, but still!) In the breathless coverage that consumes the nation, the wou Nathan Hill’s whirling debut novel, “The Nix,” blasts off with an assault on Gov. Sheldon Packer, a fire-breathing, anti-immigrant presidential candidate who may remind you of a certain reality-TV star with size anxiety. A video clip shot by some modern-day Zapruder shows a middle-aged woman shouting, “You pig!” and throwing something at Packer, who, by the grace of God, survives. (The “weapon” was just a handful of gravel, but still!) In the breathless coverage that consumes the nation, the would-be assassin — “The Packer Attacker” — is quickly identified as a teaching assistant at an elementary school, which, the governor’s allies note, “shows how the radical liberal agenda has taken over public education.”That splashy blend of violence and farce, hewing close to the shore of today’s tweet stream, is the first sign that we’re in the presence of a major new comic novelist. Hill, 40, spent a couple of. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...See the Totally Hip Video Book Revew here:https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/...
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  • Snotchocheez
    October 30, 2016
    4.5 starsI'll be the first to admit that I agree with some of the plaints of this novel's detractors and dissectors: Nathan Hill's often-precocious writing style (trying really hard to emulate Franzen and DF Wallace); blatant audience pandering (trying to please the gamut of readers from YA-friendlies and gaming nerds to (recent) history-philes and magical realists); and a tendency to meander down myriad and inconsequential plot threads and stray from the important ones. Yet, despite its flaws, 4.5 starsI'll be the first to admit that I agree with some of the plaints of this novel's detractors and dissectors: Nathan Hill's often-precocious writing style (trying really hard to emulate Franzen and DF Wallace); blatant audience pandering (trying to please the gamut of readers from YA-friendlies and gaming nerds to (recent) history-philes and magical realists); and a tendency to meander down myriad and inconsequential plot threads and stray from the important ones. Yet, despite its flaws, I really ate up Hill's debut novel, The Nix. I'm not sure if it's the book's fortuitous timing (released months before the insane circus that is the 2016 US Presidential election) or having utterly appealing, utterly flawed characters I thoroughly relate to, but I could not stop reading, and laughing, and shedding a tear (or twenty). The story pogos everywhere, spanning roughly six decades and two continents, but all plot threads ultimately lead to 2010 and Samuel Andresen-Anderson (an English prof at a low tier college outside Chicago, an aspiring author with only a Choose Your Own Adventure-esque short story to his writing credit, and a Level umpty-thousand elf on Elfscape, a MMORPG he devotes most of his non-working waking hours to); and his mom, Faye Andresen-Anderson (a mousy, Iowa raised former U of Chicago student and Vietnam War protestor, who abandoned her son and husband in the late '80s, presumably under the influence of The Nix, a Norwegian ghosty-wraith). When Samuel inadvertenly catches a newscast of his mom chucking rocks at an ultra-conservative presidential candidate (turning herself overnight into an internet sensation), it prompts Samuel's literary agent to get the rock-throwing terrorist's abandoned son to write a lurid tell-all. Then the story back-and-forths between son Samuel and mother Faye, filling in the blanks (Samuel's childhood, Faye's high school and college days) to let the reader know why Samuel's the milquetoast-y gaming slug he is, and why Faye's the irresponsible parent/rock chucker she is. Plenty of memorable supporting characters round out the mix of The Nix, like plagiarist student (of Samuel's) Laura, fellow online gamer Pwnage, the twin "B"s; Faye's fellow protestors Alice and Sebastian, her Norwegian father (and napalm producer) Frank. And, of course, that nix (and maybe even, that Nix, too (good old Tricky Dick himself)). This book is so stuffed to the gills, it's hard to be enamored of the 640-page length (and more than a few times I thought "did he really have to include that?" or "Did he really need to write a thirteen page-long sentence on the ills of role-playing computer games?" (for instance) but I can overlook sins of commission when the overall output is so engaging, funny, sad, and (mostly) relevant. This reminded me a bit of the last super highly-anticipated novel I read, Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire (another problematic doorstopper that I really liked). Despite Nathan Hill's frequent flights of fancy, I liked The Nix quite a bit more than City on Fire (which I gave 4 stars). Nowhere to go but up from there, hence the 4.5 stars, rounded up. Wouldn't be a bit surprised if it won an award or two (ahem, stodgy Pulitzer Panel, I got my eyes on y'all). Flawed, but all kinds of fun.
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  • Andrew Campbell
    April 5, 2016
    Hey everybody, can you feel it? Can you tell by the advance copies, the promised marketing campaign(s), the effusive praise from the publisher? It's THE NEXT BIG THING!!! (I know it is, it says so on the cover.)But let's dispense with the pleasantries first.Mr. Hill's prose is straightforward, direct; thankfully, he isn't writing for other writers. His characters are distinct individuals whose motivations are (mostly) understandable. He skewers college & academia most delightfully (one seque Hey everybody, can you feel it? Can you tell by the advance copies, the promised marketing campaign(s), the effusive praise from the publisher? It's THE NEXT BIG THING!!! (I know it is, it says so on the cover.)But let's dispense with the pleasantries first.Mr. Hill's prose is straightforward, direct; thankfully, he isn't writing for other writers. His characters are distinct individuals whose motivations are (mostly) understandable. He skewers college & academia most delightfully (one sequence early on dazzles). There is heart in the book, and it seems to be in the right place— or, places.Before I detail for you just exactly why this book is yet another in a line of emperors sans clothes, let me apologize for my preponderance of long, negative reviews. It's like this: good books need only a thumbs-up, an oblique description that preserves a new reader's experience.But bad books, and especially bad books that have only their own promotion to recommend them? They need to be nipped in the bud. You may disagree, of course, but at least you'll have to explain yourself beyond I Was Excited to Read It Before Everybody Else.OK then.Some books want to tell us How Things Are Now, to make their canvas the whole of the world we live in and capture the moment we're all presently sharing. I've come to call these zeitgeist novels.The zeitgeist novel aims at a story either so universal or so sprawling that it can't help but trap the reader in its net. But this presents a tricky problem for the writer. If he's too specific or peculiar, he may lose the reader's identification; if he generalizes and his observations are readily apparent, he loses the reader's interest.The Nix falls under the latter rubric. The voice is pretty much all Captain Obvious, the book's conclusions amounting to revelations such as - playing video games for most of your waking hours is bad for you- leaving your family is wrong and will affect them negatively- college students can be manipulative and dishonest.There is very little in this book that could not have been written by any writer. Certainly it took time and dedication to produce, but neither while reading it nor afterward did I have any better sense of who Mr. Hill is as a person or how he, specifically, sees the world. Not enough distinguishes The Nix to recommend it.In the latter pages, especially, Mr. Hill is given to stabs at aphorisms and the kind of the suppositions that pass for wisdom only in tone, not substance. Like, "Time heals many things because it sets us on trajectories that make the past impossible." It does? I've read that sentence a dozen times and I still can't make sense of it.Or, after a description of airport terminal commerce, a one-sentence paragraph: "This is who we are." Is it? It does tell me somewhat who YOU are- reductive, and mired in sophomoric analysis. This kind of 'insight' merely flatters the reader; no one who reads a book like The Nix finds their soul nourished by the shopping opportunities between Gates 30 and 40. Again, obvious.Worst: "who if he could have heard what was going through Bishop's head at that moment... would never have exploded that bomb." Wouldn't it be nice to think so, the untapped empathy even of the guerrilla terrorist, who needs only see into the soul of the other to stop him from killing? Here Mr. Hill reveals a fundamentally shallow view of the world, which in this instance (and others) borders on outright naïveté.And then by the end we're again tying up all the loose ends, converging the characters, and arranging for the climax to take place at an historically significant event; we're in the head of Hubert Humphrey and Allen Ginsberg and Walter Cronkite and whatever on earth for? Because intertwining one's narrative with an Important Historic Event lends heft and significance— and is a hallmark of a bad book.But narratives like these seem to be catnip to publishers, who love to take the credit for discovering The Next Big Thing. Congratulations, Mr. Hill, on being all the richer for it.
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  • helen the bookowl
    February 17, 2017
    Throughout most of this book, I was determined that it was a 5-star-read. It's a story that contains several very interesting characters, and it shifts between different time periods and situations. It was written in a language that is easy to get through so that you easily read through its 700 pages. Last but not least, I loved how it was so unpredictable and entertaining which I find necessary qualities in a book this size. However, as I got closer to the ending the story started to unravel an Throughout most of this book, I was determined that it was a 5-star-read. It's a story that contains several very interesting characters, and it shifts between different time periods and situations. It was written in a language that is easy to get through so that you easily read through its 700 pages. Last but not least, I loved how it was so unpredictable and entertaining which I find necessary qualities in a book this size. However, as I got closer to the ending the story started to unravel and become filled with unexplainable plot holes. It seemed like the novel and its author had lost their energy and pace, and the last hundred pages were too long and too dragging a conclusion. In many ways, this book reminds me of "City on Fire" by Risk Hallberg, not just because of its size and publicity, but also because it is constructed in a very similar way even though it deals with a very different story. Nevertheless, I find "The Nix" to be a MUCH better novel that is so rich in quality and entertaining that you simply must read it.
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  • Jessica
    October 8, 2016
    Every life has a moment like this, a trauma that breaks you into brand-new pieces. This was hers.This is one of the biggest books of the fall, both literally (over 600 pages!) and figuratively (so much buzz!). It’s a hefty, “white man’s feelings” novel about Samuel, a sad sack thirtysomething college professor who’s enlisted to write a book about Faye, the mother he hadn’t seen in more than two decades until she’s arrested for throwing rocks at a conservative presidential candidate. The media pa Every life has a moment like this, a trauma that breaks you into brand-new pieces. This was hers.This is one of the biggest books of the fall, both literally (over 600 pages!) and figuratively (so much buzz!). It’s a hefty, “white man’s feelings” novel about Samuel, a sad sack thirtysomething college professor who’s enlisted to write a book about Faye, the mother he hadn’t seen in more than two decades until she’s arrested for throwing rocks at a conservative presidential candidate. The media paints a picture of Faye as a radical with a sordid past – she took part in riots! She was into free love! She has a prostitution record! This so severely contradicts the idea of Faye that Samuel has always held, and much of this book is about Samuel trying to figure out which version of Faye is true while exploring the events that have led to his status as a sad sackThis could have been an amazing book, but I really think Nathan Hill was trying to do too much; it needed to be cut down by at least a third and the focus needed to be sharpened considerably. There were moments of brilliance—Hill’s prose is largely phenomenal—but the narrative ultimately got bogged down by hundreds of pages of unnecessary tangents and excessive psychoanalysis. The story travels from 2011 to small-town Iowa in the 80s to Chicago just before the 1968 riots, examining the psychology of multiple generations of one family—and nearly every person who came in contact with those people over the course of more than fifty years. There were long, detailed backgrounds of many relatively minor characters ranging from Samuel’s MMORPG buddy to the student who’s got it in for him to the childhood friend with a dark (view spoiler)[and fairly clichéd (hide spoiler)] secret that Samuel will one day exploit. A lot of this ended up being relatively skimmable; once their significance to the bigger picture was revealed, the level of detail given to these characters felt like filler. Lots and lots of fillerAt one point, I was perfectly willing to forgive much of these tangents, mostly because Faye was a particularly compelling character. The first third of the book was a smidge on navel-gazey side, but that’s understandable when you’re laying the groundwork for a Freudian case study like Samuel. The second third focused more heavily on Faye and at one point, I found myself lying in bed sobbing on her behalf. I loved how Hill demonstrated the ways that people are so easily misunderstood, how hard it is to shake off those misunderstandings, how little moments reverberate across a life and across generations. And he absolutely nailed what it’s like to deal with anxiety that’s fueled by irrational perfectionism. But that was barely the halfway point of the book, and Hill was just getting started. He added more and more layers to the story, new characters and new plot twists. It grew exhausting. By the time I hit the 75% mark ((view spoiler)[by the time we start to understand why the cop’s in the story (hide spoiler)]), I was so worn down that I just couldn’t wait to be done. I think my reader’s fatigue primarily came from the fact that so much of the plot was built around the idea of sad men who couldn’t get over the women who hurt them once upon a time. One might have been fine, but Hill kept going back to the same psychological well over and over. And too much of the plot relied too heavily on remarkable coincidences that sometimes strained credulity a bit too much ((view spoiler)[The cop became the judge presiding over Faye’s case, Samuel’s editor had been involved in Faye’s story since 1968 (hide spoiler)]). This review sounds fairly harsh, but this book wasn't really all that bad. I'm just generally not a fan of books this long because I feel like they're almost always too bloated and lacking in focus. Hill's a good writer; if he'd had an editor forcing him to revise his manuscript a few times, he might have written a book that blew my fucking mind and I'm eager to see what he does next. As is, though, this particular novel is a little too Sad White Men and it just got old quickly.
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  • Robin
    October 27, 2016
    Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive? You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower! And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not! So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter, and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and a Poor dead flower? when did you forget you were a flower? when did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive? the ghost of a locomotive? the specter and shade of a once powerful mad American locomotive? You were never no locomotive, Sunflower, you were a sunflower! And you Locomotive, you are a locomotive, forget me not! So I grabbed up the skeleton thick sunflower and stuck it at my side like a scepter, and deliver my sermon to my soul, and Jack’s soul too, and anyone who’ll listen, —We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not dread bleak dusty imageless locomotives, we’re golden sunflowers inside, blessed by our own seed & hairy naked accomplishment-bodies growing into mad black formal sunflowers in the sunset, spied on by our own eyes under the shadow of the mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision. -Allen Ginsberg, from Sunflower SutraWhat an epic tale of humanity - can I say that without sounding ridiculous? I hope so. The story starts out with Samuel, a young boy who is abandoned by his mother. A boy who finds childhood love that will make your heart palpitate with his. A lonely boy, who needs more love than he will get. It might make you think of David Copperfield or The Goldfinch. And then the story blossoms out, and out, and out, and out, and you find yourself in the 1960's in violent protests, in a bleak Norwegian landscape, in front of a video game played day in and out in place of actual life, and you will learn what the author is telling us: that a story isn't so simple, a person is not defined by an action, our lives are connected to others by tangled, fragile and tenuous strings and at the heart of it there is beauty. Even through pain and mistakes, there is so much hope. At the heart, we can all be sunflowers. Besides being touching, hopeful and well written, this book is also hilarious. Bravo to Nathan Hill on his debut novel.I believe my enjoyment of this book was amplified by listening to it on audio. The narrator (Ari Fliakos) is absolutely fantastic as he adjusted the timbre and cadence of his voice seamlessly to accommodate the many characters, and who brought the very touching ending up to an incredibly moving and sensitive peak - with me in tears."Even the masters have false starts. Even the greats must sometimes double back.""And if you make the easy choice every day then it becomes a pattern, and the patterns become your life.""...if you choose to see people as puzzles, and if you see yourself as a puzzle, then you will be constantly delighted because eventually if you dig deep enough into anybody, if you really look under the hood of someone's life, you will see something familiar.""Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own story that we don't realise we are a supporting character in someone else's."
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  • Peter Boyle
    January 7, 2017
    I'm quite wary when it comes to enormous books and The Nix makes a quality doorstop at well over 600 pages. But when I saw rave reviews from the likes of Robbie and comparisons to the work of John Irving and David Foster Wallace, I felt like I had to give it a shot. Twenty pages in, I knew it was a good decision and I hungrily devoured the rest of this glorious novel over my Christmas break.Samuel Andreson-Anderson is a Professor of English at a small American university. Deserted by his mother I'm quite wary when it comes to enormous books and The Nix makes a quality doorstop at well over 600 pages. But when I saw rave reviews from the likes of Robbie and comparisons to the work of John Irving and David Foster Wallace, I felt like I had to give it a shot. Twenty pages in, I knew it was a good decision and I hungrily devoured the rest of this glorious novel over my Christmas break.Samuel Andreson-Anderson is a Professor of English at a small American university. Deserted by his mother Faye without explanation when he was 11 years old, he now lives an unfulfilling existence and spends most of his free time on a World of Warcraft style MMO game called Elfscape. But when Faye becomes a viral sensation for a spontaneous attack on a Presidential candidate, Samuel is forced to confront his past and decides to seek answers for the devastating abandonment that changed his whole life.This novel is absolutely bursting at the seams with ideas (perhaps *too* many). It is as if Hill has thrown everything including the kitchen sink into his debut effort. Throughout the course of the story, he manages to address a dizzying array of topics as diverse as the circus of American politics, gaming culture, social media addiction and the ongoing cable news frenzy. Not all of it is necessary, and some of it should probably have been excised, but it all serves to demonstrate his dazzling abilities and versatility as a writer.The book that The Nix reminds me of most is The Goldfinch, and this is no bad thing. Much like Donna Tartt's wonderful novel, this story is at its most engaging when tackling a child's profound longing for an absent mother. I admit that I found certain aspects of the plot implausible, such as (view spoiler)[how Samuel's agent engineered the infamous Packer Attack. (hide spoiler)] But there is so much to love in this sprawling tale. Characters like Samuel's mischievous childhood friend Bishop and the well-intentioned guild master Pwnage will live long in my memory. When The Nix is good, it is *very* good and you can forgive some of the less engaging detours. One thing's for certain: Nathan Hill is the real deal, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
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  • Eric Kibler
    November 20, 2016
    One of the best books I read this year. Nathan Hill has his finger on the pulse of the times in the same way Tom Wolfe used to. This book satirizes consumer culture, computer gaming, politics, and other things, but it also informs and philosophizes about them. It's also a novel that deals in a heartfelt way with the mechanics of human relationships. How the diminishment of ego, the recognition that we are merely supporting characters in other people's stories, makes us more lovable to others. Th One of the best books I read this year. Nathan Hill has his finger on the pulse of the times in the same way Tom Wolfe used to. This book satirizes consumer culture, computer gaming, politics, and other things, but it also informs and philosophizes about them. It's also a novel that deals in a heartfelt way with the mechanics of human relationships. How the diminishment of ego, the recognition that we are merely supporting characters in other people's stories, makes us more lovable to others. There. I've said a lot without giving away any of the plot. And there is quite a plot (or plots) that will keep you turning all 620 of the pages.
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  • Emer
    January 9, 2017
    "The things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst." The Nix was a great big sprawling mess of a book. And I mean that in the most glorious way possible. Life is messy and never straightforward, and that idea is echoed within these pages. It was simply beautiful. And I was enthralled by every word. The story follows a man's search for the truth about his mother's past and as a result becomes a tale of self-discovery. But that description is much too simplistic. Plots are delicately "The things you love the most will one day hurt you the worst." The Nix was a great big sprawling mess of a book. And I mean that in the most glorious way possible. Life is messy and never straightforward, and that idea is echoed within these pages. It was simply beautiful. And I was enthralled by every word. The story follows a man's search for the truth about his mother's past and as a result becomes a tale of self-discovery. But that description is much too simplistic. Plots are delicately interwoven and the storyline meanders back and forth through time slowly revealing the secrets of the past to the reader. To me this was a real page-turner. Samuel, the lead character, is merely existing rather than living. Everything about his life is uninspiring to him and he feels very much like a failure. Certain events occur that cause him to explore his past and to once and for all discover what it was that caused his mother to leave him as a young child.I loved the writing style of the author. The characters felt real and tangible when they were supposed to be, and conversely mysterious and ethereal when that was required by the story. I really liked the characters of Samuel and his mother Faye. They both had elements of the ridiculous about them but ultimately were incredibly human in their actions.The different time periods in which the novel was set fully came alive in their own unique way and everything somehow felt believable. I especially loved the references made to Nordic folklore and ghost stories from which the title of the book is taken. Definitely a book that I would recommend if you like things a little messy. Life is more interesting when it's less ordered and doesn't go according to plan don't you think?four stars "People love each other for many reasons, not all of them good. They love each other because it's easy. Or because they're used to it. Or because they've given up. Or because they're scared. People can be a Nix for each other." *A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
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  • Book Riot Community
    August 31, 2016
    One of the year’s biggest debuts, both literally and figuratively, The Nix is a sprawling, funny (and sad) story about the relationship between a college professor and his mother. Samuel hasn’t seen his radical hippie mother since he was a young boy, but when she shows up in his life, asking for help, he decides to give it to her. Helping her means revisiting both their pasts, and learning things about his mother and himself he never realized. If you love big, occasionally self-indulgent literar One of the year’s biggest debuts, both literally and figuratively, The Nix is a sprawling, funny (and sad) story about the relationship between a college professor and his mother. Samuel hasn’t seen his radical hippie mother since he was a young boy, but when she shows up in his life, asking for help, he decides to give it to her. Helping her means revisiting both their pasts, and learning things about his mother and himself he never realized. If you love big, occasionally self-indulgent literary fiction (and I mean that in a good way), this is perfect for you!Backlist bump: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
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  • Emily May
    October 19, 2016
    The Nix is made up of many good parts, some very funny even, but most of them never come together. There were whole chapters of this doorstopper that felt like unnecessary padding.The central story - about a bored college teacher who is commissioned to write a book about the mother he hasn't seen for years - is diluted by hundreds of tangents that wander off in all directions, spending far too much time on inconsequential anecdotes and subplots from Samuel's childhood, as well as side stories ab The Nix is made up of many good parts, some very funny even, but most of them never come together. There were whole chapters of this doorstopper that felt like unnecessary padding.The central story - about a bored college teacher who is commissioned to write a book about the mother he hasn't seen for years - is diluted by hundreds of tangents that wander off in all directions, spending far too much time on inconsequential anecdotes and subplots from Samuel's childhood, as well as side stories about minor characters. Plus, I don't want to be the kind of asshole who says every book over 500 pages is too long but, truly, this is too long. A third could have (and should have) been cut with little effect to the story.I've started with the negative, but I did enjoy this book. It was much funnier than I expected and there were some really fantastic scenes where Hill's writing just sparkled with charisma. Several people have noted the early exchange between Samuel and one of his female students, in which she attempts to get away with plagiarism by using almost every logical fallacy you can name. It was hilarious perfection. Moments of brilliance are scattered throughout but, overall, the book just needed another round of editing to sharpen the focus. Detail can be a great thing, but often excessive detail reads like filler. That was the case here. The great writing didn't disguise the pointlessness of certain sections and it was very tempting to skim read them (as I found out later, that would have probably had no effect on my reading experience).Not bad for a debut, though. I'd happily check out Hill's future work.Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store
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  • Carmen Petaccio
    September 10, 2016
    Derivative when it isn't bland, preposterous when it isn't a bore. Why do I keep doing this to myself?
  • Ameriie
    February 10, 2017
    Searing, irreverent, hilarious, and wickedly smart. One of my favorite books of 2017 (and probably ever).
  • Perry
    September 17, 2016
    a fusillade of Far Out, man! A superb novel. Finally, a book that lives up to the pre-pub hype. Review to follow.I loved this book!
  • David Yoon
    March 8, 2017
    Such a timely read. It’s a love letter to introverts facing a post-truth world where the brash bully their way to the prize with a complete disregard for anyone other than themselves. Hill careens wildly about exploring every shiny idea that presents itself as he jumps back and forth from the present to the 1968 Chicago riots, to 1940’s Norway; from the Iraq War to online quests. With all these balls in the air he somehow never manages to miss a beat. It’s another debut novel that is filled to o Such a timely read. It’s a love letter to introverts facing a post-truth world where the brash bully their way to the prize with a complete disregard for anyone other than themselves. Hill careens wildly about exploring every shiny idea that presents itself as he jumps back and forth from the present to the 1968 Chicago riots, to 1940’s Norway; from the Iraq War to online quests. With all these balls in the air he somehow never manages to miss a beat. It’s another debut novel that is filled to overflowing with a lifetime of ideas distilled onto the page. It is a credit to Hill’s talent that the book doesn’t topple under the sheer mass of ideas, even if it felt like there were some head scratching tangents that keep it from being a complete 5 star book.
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  • Chadwick
    January 22, 2017
    What a zany joyride.Fair warning: Nathan Hill has put a lot of stuff into this big novel. (He is not a writer lacking in confidence.) Things can get a bit manic, and it occasionally runs the risk of veering out of control. But it's also wise and intelligent, and suffused with humanity. And it is very, very funny.While reading, I was reminded of that classic exchange between Mozart and Emperor Joseph II in the film version of "Amadeus":"EMPEROR: My dear, young man, don't take it too hard. Your wo What a zany joyride.Fair warning: Nathan Hill has put a lot of stuff into this big novel. (He is not a writer lacking in confidence.) Things can get a bit manic, and it occasionally runs the risk of veering out of control. But it's also wise and intelligent, and suffused with humanity. And it is very, very funny.While reading, I was reminded of that classic exchange between Mozart and Emperor Joseph II in the film version of "Amadeus":"EMPEROR: My dear, young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Cut a few and it will be perfect.MOZART: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?EMPEROR: Well. There it is."There it is, indeed. To offer just one example: there's a 20-page section that is nothing but a series of inventive excuses offered by a plagiarizing college student to her professor. Excessive? Perhaps. Necessary to the story? No. But it's also utterly hilarious. So I'm not suggesting any specific notes to cut. I can't help feeling that this could have been a leaner and tighter book, and maybe that it could have more effective as a result. But this is the book Nathan Hill gave us, and I'll gladly take it as it is.Hill jumps back and forth in time and space, taking us on a wildly original romp through modern American history from the 1950s to the present. But at its core, this is a story of the relationships between three generations of an American family. And for all the craziness and hyperactivity, that thoughtful inner core is what makes his book special for me. He had me hooked with his opening montage: a young mother leaves her family, but slowly, over a period of months. She removes her personal items from the house one by one, and it's so gradual that her husband and son don't realize what's happening. In the process, she is also removing herself mentally, bit by bit. Then one day, she disappears for good. It's a terrific image, and Hill writes it in a way that is both heartbreaking and funny. And that really sums up what's best about THE NIX for me.This was mostly great fun, despite the occasional frustrations. In the end, it was the compassion and warmth of his novel that won me over. It may have been a long haul, but I'm glad to have been along for the ride.
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  • Tania
    January 8, 2017
    ...and if you make the easy choice every day, then it becomes a pattern, and your patterns become your life.4.5 stars. This is a big book: in page count, in cast, in time-periods and settings. The writing style and the scope definitely reminds me of John Irving. Not once in this over 600 page book did I become bored, I loved that I could never guess what would happen next. I can't believe that this is a debut, the writing is amazing, not beautiful or flowery, but smart and insightful. I especial ...and if you make the easy choice every day, then it becomes a pattern, and your patterns become your life.4.5 stars. This is a big book: in page count, in cast, in time-periods and settings. The writing style and the scope definitely reminds me of John Irving. Not once in this over 600 page book did I become bored, I loved that I could never guess what would happen next. I can't believe that this is a debut, the writing is amazing, not beautiful or flowery, but smart and insightful. I especially enjoyed Pwnage's and Laura's stories that looks at the effects of technology on our world and our lives. I highly recommend this book, it will take you various places, introduce you to very interesting characters, and share some wonderful (and witty) ideas. The Story: The book centers on would-be writer Samuel, who goes in search of the true story of his mother, who abandoned the family when he was a child and gets caught on camera throwing rocks at a politician.
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  • Donna
    November 6, 2016
    "The things you love the most will one day hurt you the most."That's what a Nix is. And that is the crux of this story, a sad truth discovered by many of the characters through no fault of their own. What they are passionate about seem to undo or to doom them, whether the thing they love the most is a person they want desperately to be loved by, or a political or social ideal they are bent on supporting, or a seemingly harmless leisure activity that was supposed to take them away from their trou "The things you love the most will one day hurt you the most."That's what a Nix is. And that is the crux of this story, a sad truth discovered by many of the characters through no fault of their own. What they are passionate about seem to undo or to doom them, whether the thing they love the most is a person they want desperately to be loved by, or a political or social ideal they are bent on supporting, or a seemingly harmless leisure activity that was supposed to take them away from their troubles, but only causes more. But I don't want to give you the impression that this is a grim book because it is just the opposite. It is a literary book of social satire overflowing with humor that fluctuates from absurd to sarcastic to playful. It is also a touching coming of age story for a middle-aged mother, Faye Andresen-Anderson and her adult son, Samuel. Faye left her husband and son twenty years ago without notice, simply left them and disappeared without a word of contact since then, not until Samuel, now a college professor and blocked writer, gets a call out of the blue from his mother's lawyer asking for his help. His mother was arrested for assaulting a would-be presidential candidate, and she needs Samuel to write a letter to the judge asking for leniency. Samuel agrees to meet with his mother to learn more about her and her past so he can write, not a letter espousing his mother's virtues as she hopes, but an expose book on her to fulfill a contract with his publisher. The book will also be his revenge for his mother abandoning him, an act which has shaped who he is today. "He hesitates. He cannot immediately bring himself to walk through this door and back into his mother's life. After a moment, she speaks up again, from somewhere inside. "It's okay, " she says. "Don't be scared." And it nearly breaks him, hearing that. He sees her now in a rush of memory, lingering over his bed in the bleary morning and he's eleven years old and she is about to leave and never come back. Those words burn him straight through. They reach across the decades and summon up that timid boy he once was. 'Don't be scared.' It was the last thing she'd ever said to him."What happens next neither of them could have predicted because nothing and no one is quite as they seem. All the characters affect each other for better or worse as their lives, past and present, collide, and sometimes, the best intentions go terribly wrong and have the opposite effect. Whatever you're thinking about this book at any given moment while reading it, don't be mistaken into believing you know the story, the characters, the tone, the genre, or anything else about it because it's a slippery fish. It cannot be grasped except in the moment. It changes focus, section by section, going backward and forward in time, and sometimes sideways. But have faith that it will all relate back to the larger story and themes set against the backdrop of political and social unrest in the sixties and in current times. I guarantee you won't be bored and you won't guess what will happen next. I admired the author for going out on a limb, creating something both literary and bizarre with extended sections of his book pushing the limits of just how far he could go and still reel his characters and the story in to make complete sense out of seemingly nonsensical elements. While reading, I kept wondering what the heck he was going to write next and why it would be important. I kept hoping the author wouldn't take things too far to where he might lose his reader or his focus. He came close, but he never did go too far. He knew exactly what he was doing. Should you read this book? If you aren't comfortable with or care for stories that have much weirdness in them or stories which aren't straightforward, this may not be the book for you. But if you enjoy satire and family drama blended with historical fiction, heavy on the fiction, and have patience and don't mind a nonlinear story, this book might be just your thing. It was inventive, entertaining, looney, touching, and more. This book is the author's playground, and he invites the reader into it to play with him. You don't need to know what the game is or even the rules. Just have a good time.
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