The Nix by Nathan Hill
5 out of 5 stars
Wow! This book! It’s only March but The Nix might become my number one read of 2017!
It surprised me; it kept coming back to me even when I wasn’t reading; it made me laugh; it was sad at times; it was an agitating read; and a fun one; and a pensive one.
These things wrapped into one big tome of roughly 600 pages. And every single one of them has a right to exist! Not one page felt superfluous. Even though you don’t see it at first, everything, every character, and every meandering plotline is important for the novel as a whole.
The Nix is a story about a college professor whose mother left him when he was eleven. It’s fairly safe to say that this was a traumatizing episode for young Samuel; and given the chance as a grown up, he wants to find out the true reason for his mother’s abandonment. That’s the books premise in a nutshell. The really wonderful thing is what Hill makes of it.
Because it’s not only a novel about abandonment issues. It’s about family structures and about the fixed impressions we have of the people in our life. I love how Hill makes you hate/dislike a certain character up until you find out their backstory and you begin to rethink your opinion. In general, the characters in this book don’t seem too relatable until you get to their point of view and you see their motivations for behaving the way they do.
Hill leads the reader through these ever-changing narratives in a non-linear but structured way. He’s awesome at seamlessly picking up where he left off a few chapters ago.
He makes it possible for every character in this book to be the main character once. A quote that captures this fairly well, in my opinion, is this:
“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.” p.618
What a great way of saying you have to take a step back and see the big picture before judging someone!
Yes, you do have to get through the first fifty to hundred pages not knowing what’s really going on. And I actually kept thinking to myself, “why should I be interested in this whiny guy’s story again?”. But once you’re into the flow of the novel you get why the narrative makes all these digressions. And then it all comes together piece by piece, with every page you read.
Another thing I absolutely love is how The Nix doesn’t take itself too seriously. It constantly pokes fun at academia and the publishing industry. It even goes into metafictional terrain from time to time. One quote that made me laugh was when the main character’s publisher says this about the book he – Samuel – writes:
“So it’s going to be like six hundred pages and ten people will read it?” p.613
Reading this sentence near the end of the epic six-hundred-page novel you’re about to finish is pure genius!
What a novel! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading a well-crafted, intelligent, and beautiful story!