The Nix by Nathan Hill



As seen in Goodreads:

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother and himself.


My Comments:

The Nix is an extremely well written novel, and at 620 pages, a lot to absorb.  I did not know much about the riots in Chicago in 1968 that occurred at the Democratic National Convention so the backdrop for this story was interesting to me, chock full of tidbits starring poet Allen Ginsberg, reporter Walter Cronkite and Vice President Hubert Humphrey…the book is fiction but proved to be educational as I spent some time researching further.

Samuel’s mother, Faye, abandoned him when he was a young boy and that trauma he experienced damaged him, impacted how he felt about himself and interfered with his relationships.  As an adult English professor, he spends all his free time playing video games.  He has a book deal he cannot fulfill, a girl he cannot connect with, a friend who passed away, an unfulfilling job, and a mother he hasn’t spoken to since she left him as a child.  When he learns Faye has committed a crime, his path in life changes as he chooses to track her down.  While we are engrossed in Samuel’s quest, author Nathan Hill delves into the mother’s past so we can understand who she is and ultimately learn why she left Samuel, why she committed this crime, and how all the characters are connected.

Psychology, tragedy, politics, history and satire combined into one intelligent novel; The Nix is serious and sad as well as surprising and funny.  Well worth the read.


Nathan Hill’s short fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including The Iowa Review, AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, and Fiction, where he was awarded the annual Fiction Prize. A native Iowan, he lives with his wife in Naples, Florida. THE NIX is his first novel.

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