The Nix by Nathan Hill

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The Nix is a multi-generational novel veering across America and covering (in a non-linear fashion) events from the 1960s to today. It follows Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a writer/teacher in his early 30s, as he reunites with the mother, Faye, who abandoned him when he was 11. Now considered a radical hippie prostitute terrorist, Faye is on trial for throwing rocks at a politician who seems like the curious love child of George W. Bush and Donald Trump. Her only hope is that Samuel will put in a good word with the judge. As the book pushes onward we find out more and more about both Samuel and Faye’s past…

Just when you thought this blog would be nothing but positive reviews… Unfortunately, The Nix just didn’t do it for me. Lauded by some of my co-workers as the “next great American novel” I eagerly picked it up to see if it could live up to the hype. Well, dear reader, it didn’t.

The best thing I can say about this book is that, for the most part, I was ambivalent towards it. Other times I hated it or simply harboured a feeling of faint dislike.

Now I don’t require that all the characters in a book be likeable (see: Lolita by Nabokov) but I do require that they at least be interesting and unfortunately none of them were. In fact, a lot of the time they came across as fairly two-dimensional or cardboard-y. All the women seemed shrill and manipulative and all the men were whiny and ineffectual. In addition, Hill’s satire never really struck a chord with me. Admittedly I struggle with satire at the best of times (and this was not the best of times). It came across as harsh, cynical and obvious (ie. 60s=sexist; technology=bad).

I did read somewhere that Hill does all his writing in longhand – bear in mind that this novel is 640 pages long – so that’s pretty impressive. I won’t completely write Hill off but this very much reads like a first novel and I think he (and it) could use some work.

 

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