How to describe The Nix? Author Nathan Hill skips through generations, across continents, from political movement to political movement, telling his epic story though the voices of a disgraced English professor in 2011, a reluctant counter-culture symbol in Chicago’s 1968 protests of the Vietnam War, an obsessed MMORPG player prone to run-on sentences and a self-involved college student who plagiarizes with abandon.
But at its heart, The Nix is a story about what we do with the ghosts of our past: do we ignore them, exorcise them, let them haunt our every choice? Samuel Andreson-Anderson is a haunted man. He’s haunted by the ghost of the mother who abandoned him as a child, of the woman he has loved and failed all his life, of the friend he couldn’t save, of the potential he has squandered. After his mother reappears in a dramatic incident that has her being called a terrorist or a savior on the national news, Samuel must confront these ghosts, one by one, in a gorgeous story of both scope and precision.
The Nix deftly deals with politics and relationships. The 1968 protests parallel 2011’s Occupy Wall Street movement, and both will bring to mind the heated political climate of today. There’s a hateful blowhard demagogue running for president, and there can be little doubt that he’s intended to stand for our own President-Elect. But among and underneath the political rivalries are movements of a different sort: personal triumphs in the shadow of national heartache, the reminder that understanding is both harder and greater than hatred, that your own truth will keep you going in a world full of deceit.
The Nix is a book of great challenges and exceptional hope. It will test you, again and again, breaking your heart until you almost can’t take another word, but it will leave you with a sense of rightness, a healing optimism that we all desperately need right now. It’ll make you laugh and think and look inside yourself. It’s impossibly clever, brilliantly plotted, immensely readable. It’s inventive and heartfelt and important. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read in years and one that I already can’t wait to revisit.
Absolutely do not miss out on The Nix. You need this book. We all do.