Meet Samuel Andresen-Anderson - stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of online video games. He hasn't seen his mother, Faye, in decades, not since she abandoned her family when he was a boy. Now she has suddenly reappeared, having committed an absurd politically-motivated crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the Internet, and inflames a divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain - she's facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel's help.
As Samuel begins to excavate his mother's - and his country's - history, the story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s, to New York City during the Great Recession and the Occupy Wall Street movement, and back to the infamous riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention. Finally, the trail leads him to wartime Norway, home of the mysterious Nix that his mother told him about as a child, a spirit that can take the shape of a white horse, luring children to their deaths. And in these places, Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother - a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she has kept hidden from the world.
About the Author
Nathan Hill was born in Iowa in 1975 and lives with his wife in Naples, Florida. The Nix is his first novel.
The Nix is a mother-son psychodrama with ghosts and politics, but it's also a tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America. Even the minor characters go to extremes - 'A maestro of being awful,' the son calls his mom. Nathan Hill is a maestro of being terrific. -- John Irving
There is an accidental topicality in Hill's debut, about an estranged mother and son whose fates hinge on two mirror-image political events - the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the Republican Convention of 2004. But beyond that hook lies a high-risk, high-reward playfulness with structure and tone: comic set-pieces, digressions into myth, and formal larks that call to mind Jennifer Egan's
A Visit From the Goon Squad. New York Magazine
Hill skillfully blends humor and darkness, imagery and observation. He also excels at describing technology, addition, cultural milestones, and childhood ordeals. Cameos by [the famous] add heart and perspective to this rich, lively take on American social conflict, real and invented, over the last half-century. Publishers' Weekly, starred and boxed review
'Ambitiously panoramic and humane. . . . The multiple story lines are dexterously juggled and well-paced. . . Aerialist prose, deadpan dialogue and fantastical sendups of late-capitalist life... Hill has so much talent to burn that he can pull of just about any style, imagine himself into any person and convincingly portray any place or time. The Nix is hugely entertaining and unfailingly smart, and the author seems incapable of writing a pedestrian sentence or spinning a boring story. . . . Hill is such a gifted and tenderhearted storyteller. . . When he earnestly explores the fears and desires of humans, whatever conventional familiarity they may have dissolves under his adroit narrative control and nuanced attention to language and psychology. . . . [A] supersize and audacious novel of American misadventure.' New York Times Book Review
'[headline] Nathan Hill Is Compared to John Irving. Irving Compares Him to Dickens... Hill... seems poised to break out as a major literary talent... Hill’s prickly social satire, which takes aim at academia, politics, publishing and social media... “It’s an ambitious novel without ever being pretentious,” [John] Irving said in an interview, noting that he couldn’t remember the last time a debut novel had made such a strong impression on him. “There’s a Dickensian range between stuff that’s genuinely sad, upsetting and disturbing with stuff that is genuinely comedic.”' New York Times
'Nathan Hill’s great sprawling feast of a first novel... [Hill] packs The Nix with cultural commentary that manages to be both darkly satirical and uproariously funny. While wildly original, Hill is clearly the spawn of Thomas Pynchon and Stanley Elkin. He’s Jonathan Franzen wearing a smile for a change... It’s inventive storytelling rather than opinion that makes this long novel seem shorter than it is. Hill creates an intricate plot that rarely falters... Hill’s targets may be familiar, but his aim is unerring... The book’s timeless gravitas springs from the heartbreak of the severed mother-son bond... Hill writes with an astonishingly sure hand for a young author. He burrows deep inside the heads of old people and young, soldiers and protesters, men and women... As for Hill, let’s just call him the real thing.' Newsday
'[In] his dazzling debut novel... this rich and multilayered book... The Nix (**** out of four stars) jumps viewpoints and time periods with delightful abandon... Hill is an uncommonly profound observer, illuminating much about the relationships between parents and children. Yet amid all its searching and yearning, The Nix remains impressively light on its feet, finding humor in its characters’ plights without ever getting snide about them... Though The Nix captures the 1960s and the 1980s with impressive authority, the novel reaches its greatest heights in depicting our modern moment... This is a stylistically agile book, and Hill has an impersonator’s uncanny ability to take on wildly different registers from chapter to chapter. The Nix’s pleasures are similar to those of a short story collection: each shapely chapter is a rich journey in its own right. Hill clearly knows the pleasure of a plot twist, and readers looking to the larger story for their enjoyment will find plenty to keep them hooked as well... This looks to be the debut of an important new writer, able to variously make readers laugh out loud while providing a melancholy, resonant tale that argues “there is no greater ache than this: guilt and regret in equal measure.”' USA Today
'There is an accidental topicality in Hill’s debut, about an estranged mother and son whose fates hinge on two mirror-image political events - the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the Republican Convention of 2004. But beyond that hook lies a high-risk, high-reward playfulness with structure and tone: comic set-pieces, digressions into myth, and formal larks that call to mind Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.' New York Magazine
'By turns, wickedly funny, shockingly wise, touching and thought-provoking. And with an extended cameo from poet and radical Allen Ginsberg, it’s a rich buffet of a novel... There is much to savour in The Nix, and Hill should be fully credited for his heedlessness. In a publishing climate too often characterized by safety and caution, such a brazen debut is refreshing, even if it ultimately becomes a victim of its own ambitions.' Toronto Star
'A terrific debut that makes the political personal... Roils with the energy of political protest...a big, generous novel fueled by themes more universal than political belief. Regret and forgiveness haunt The Nix, even when it gets so laugh-out-loud funny that reading it in public becomes risky...The Nixcontains multitudes, but all strands lead back to a son's crushing love for his mother and the resentment he's harbored since she skipped town... The Nixwill go down as one of the best debut books of the year.' Dallas Morning News
'Nathan Hill’s brilliant debut...a big, ambitious, deliciously sprawling novel that centers on a complicated mother-son relationship rooted in Samuel’s childhood but also in his mother Faye’s own mysterious past... deliciously abundant with ideas, themes and characters' Fort Worth Star-Telegram