Faye and Samuel, mother and son, deal with their strained relationship while flashing back to their respective upbringings, injustices, and mistakes.
The Nix pulls off quite a feat – it’s really freaking long, and really freaking interesting.
Nathan Hill goes into great detail of the characters’ lives, but this book isn’t mired in minutiae. The story is vast and narrow at the same time. I’ll explain:
It includes the Vietnam War protests, but it isn’t about the protest movement. It includes a character addicted to video games, but it isn’t about addiction…or video games. It includes parents who abandon their children, but it isn’t about parental abandonment. It includes an entitled college student, but it isn’t about entitlement culture. It includes a money-hungry publicist, but it isn’t about media corruption.
The Nix encompasses so many themes and historical events, but in the end, it’s about two people: Faye and Samuel.
Everything else is so much noise in their lives.
I have to admit, I spent the first half (or more) of the book wondering if the author hates women. The female characters are selfish and vile. The male characters are often weak because they’re victimized by these women in their lives.
I’m not arguing that women should only be displayed in a positive light. Barf on that. (Speaking of barf, have I mentioned what a professional reviewer I am? Just wait, maybe I’ll manage to slip in a fart joke somewhere.)
Women are imperfect creatures, as are men, but they seem vilified by The Nix in the beginning. The story shifts, though, and we see the backstory behind Faye. Hill draws a mix of good, evil, and grey in each of the characters, avoiding the stereotypes that can cheapen a story and delegitimize the people in it.
So, no woman-hating here. The characters are all flawed people regardless of gender, not always doing right, not always doing wrong.
Speaking of stereotypes, Hill does go a little overboard with Laura, the self-righteous, entitled college student. But I don’t care. Her character is hilarious. I had kind of hoped to see her get her comeuppance, but those people rarely do get a comeuppance, do they? Good for a laugh.
I listened to the audiobook version of this book, read by Ari Fliakos. Holy fart (told ya!), he’s great. He voices the voices with aplomb. But at the same time, Fliakos embodies the story without upstaging it with his virtuoso performance. To do list item: seek other audiobooks read by him.
Read here why I love audiobooks as an option, and get recommendations for three good ones.
The Nix is another on The Morning News’ 2017 Tournament of Books shortlist. I do think this one will make it far in the brackets. Conjecture has it the finals will come down to The Nix, The Underground Railroad, and perhaps Homegoing. So far, I’m proving to be notoriously bad at predicting how it’ll go…we’ll see!
Coming back to the book, I wonder
Or are they each their own destructive forces? Sure, thereâ€™s a lot in the world to blame for their respective downfalls, but at the end of it all, they should accept personal responsibility for pulling back from the cliff (and I think they do).
Or could it have been Sebastian/Guy…bah, if I keep thinking about it, Iâ€™ll find a way for everything to be a Nix in Faye and Samuelâ€™s lives, including the stupid rocks she threw in the beginning.
Itâ€™s easy to blame an evil horse for throwing you over the edge of a cliff. Itâ€™s much more difficult to accept the challenge and responsibility to make it stop.