Okay, this is going to be rather different than my other reviews. Mostly because I cannot stop thinking about how wonderful this book is. It encompasses so many different things that I hope I can do justice to the complexity Nathan Hill built in to this story.
To start off with, this story follows the coming of age of Faye and her estranged son, Samuel. It begins when Faye throws rocks at an ultra-right wing conservative politician, who happens to be attempting to run for president, when he takes an unplanned stroll through a park. She is then lauded as a liberal hero while be condemned as everything wrong with liberalism by the right. Meanwhile Samuel, a professor of literature at a liberal arts college, misses all the news coverage because he is playing an online MMO called World of Elfscape. The story goes on to describe Faye’s attempts to leave the small town she grew up in, Samuel’s life growing up and coming to terms with unhappy he is as an adult, and numerous secondary and tertiary characters who add depth and complexity.
What struck me most about The Nix is how vast this story feels. It is already over 600 pages long, but I wanted more. I wanted to spend more time with the characters and find out more about their lives. The writing is vivid, but not pretentious. Hill has a remarkable understanding of how people interact with one another and how those interactions are not always rational. Characters are continually blinded by their perceptions and idealizations of others.
One aspect I do want to mention is that there is very little diversity in this story. I believe every main character is white. Although there is a compelling immigration narrative, it is told from a distance. Although I still do love this book, I think it is important to point out when there is a lack of representation.
The Nix is a slow but complex story exploring family, politics, online gaming culture and the ways ones past always enters into the present. It is non-linear, which may be jarring to people use to linear narratives. If anything about this book seems interesting, I would highly recommend taking a chance. I was hooked from the first chapter.