Author(s): Nathan HillDownload
A hilarious and deeply touching debut novel about a son, the mother who left him as a child, and how his search to uncover the secrets of her life leads him to reclaim his own.Meet Samuel Andresen-Anderson: stalled writer, bored teacher at a local college, obsessive player of an online video game. He hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, since she walked out when he was a child. But then one day there she is, all over the news, throwing rocks at a presidential candidate. The media paints Faye as a militant radical with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother never left her small Iowa town. Which version of his mother is the true one? Determined to solve the puzzle–and finally have something to deliver to his publisher–Samuel decides to capitalize on his mother’s new fame by writing a tell-all biography, a book that will savage her intimately, publicly. But first, he has to locate her; and second, to talk to her without bursting into tears. As Samuel begins to excavate her history, the story moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s to New York City during the Great Recession and Occupy Wall Street to the infamous riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, and finally to Norway, home of the mysterious Nix that his mother told him about as a child. And in these places, Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother–a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she kept hidden from the world.
Some Reviews: 7565 in Goodreads.com
I’m not a huge fan of long novels. This one, however, was without a doubt worth the time.
Mother and son over the long haul, Faye and Samuel – a great unfolding and refolding of their relationship. Seriously talented storytelling at play here. Samuel, an oddly compelling and sympathetic character, a teacher struggling to get his act together. Faye, a woman somewhat off the wall for decades for good reasons and bad, an agent of cultural change with vexed measure of responsibility. There are a number of dizzying story lines that are shuffled together at a perfect pace with no loss of balance. Totally surprising, Hill masterfully used an online game called World of Elfscape with characters worthy of entire book for themselves. Remarkable! The reader gets to travel back to Norway in the 1940’s, very cool, and other locales and time periods. There are many lesser characters all over the place that easily earned their time on the pages. The writing style varies with great success; almost as if there were multiple authors working together to produce this story. The occasional bouts of ranting in the book were fantastic material that took me slightly out of the action for a perfect position to reflect on the ongoing story; to the effect of pulling me in deeper and deeper.
After finishing the story, I feel I was played by Hill; played like some sort instrument capable of everything from Classical to Rock and Roll and anything else that will move your blood or shake you up the way you like – and have you willing to go on tour to wherever there is a call for music.
This book was intelligent, engrossing, and hands-down solid entertainment. A very memorable book. Nathan Hill is a writer to reckon with. I can’t wait to get my hands on his next book.
Guys: I know it’s early but I’m going to proclaim this the best book I’ve read this year. I’m not kidding. I was sucked into this book from the first few pages, and couldn’t put it down (at 600 pages, it was quite the arm exercise). Characters are all believably flawed without being dumb, the storyline makes sense, it all gets wrapped up at the end but leaves some questions unanswered (so we can talk about them in book club, weee!). The writing is superb. Lots of different styles, which normally drives me a little nuts because the author is trying to show off, but here it works. The book makes observations about many different things through the dialogue of the characters, so I will have to re-read it to underline some things. Your empathy for characters changes as you learn more about them (sometimes with these types of books, I don’t really care about the supporting characters and jump over their chapters. Here, I did not). This book is entirely unpretentious, a slow burn of a read that will make you think these characters are people you actually know. I can’t wait to hear what others think.
I listened to the audio version of The Nix. Right now I’m at 4 stars but if the novel sticks with me I might bump it up to 4 1/2. This is a great audiobook but not a perfect book. I know people are comparing this to The Goldfinch, and I get that, but I don’t think the writing was as sophisticated as Tartt’s book.
It took me two tries with this novel. I will say that if you are going to read or listen to it, make the time for no long stretch stops. That’s what I did the first time and I couldn’t get back into it.
Ari Fliakos is amazing narrating this. 5+++++ Star Audio! Strongly recommended for those who don’t mind books that could use a bit of length tweaking.
Sorry this is a rough review but I’ve been in a book rut for about 5 months. Hopefully I can write better reviews again soon. 🙂
“Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see how we’re supporting characters in someone else’s.”
4 Stars for storytelling
3 Stars for plot
Rounding to 4 because I enjoyed the experience.
The story and the writing in this book were very entertaining. I was enthralled the entire way through. The style changed from time to time which was interesting and showed the skill of the author.
I heard some commentary about this book saying that it is a bit dark and cynical which can make it a tough read if you are looking for something light and uplifting. I can say that I do agree with this assessment.
Plot-wise there was just soooooo much which made it feel like there were lots of loose ends, unfinished business, and thinly fleshed out storylines. Imagine having 4 hours to do 10 chores. If you spend the whole time doing one, at least you will get it done really well. With this book, it was like the author shoved all 10 chores into the 4 hours, so they were either only partially done or done sloppily.
It seems like it would be hard to say that a book is both well written but lacks a strong, concise, and complete plot . . . but, here it is! I’m saying it!
“If you’re not afraid of it, then it’s not real change.”
I feel as though I just read three completely separate novels somewhat awkwardly combined into one 600+ page tome:
* The Faye Novel featuring Henry, Frank, Sebastian, Alice and Charles Brown (the most problematic with broadly drawn, cartoony characters and unlikely plot resolutions)
* The Samuel/Bishop/Bethany Novel (my favorite)
* The Social Commentary Novel, featuring Pwnage, Alan Ginsburg, Walter Cronkite, Guy Periwinkle, Governor Sheldon Packer, Laura Pottsdam et al (the most fun)
All of the stories are beautifully written and interesting in their own right but to me, they did not mesh successfully into one. The individual parts and pieces are way better than the whole. And can I just say that the satire in this book is brilliant? Hill skewers everything and everyone in a way that is very, very funny, insightful and mostly not mean spirited. I laughed out loud a LOT – especially in the segments featuring millenial twit Laura Pottsdam. Spot on.
This is a VERY ambitious first novel. It was very reminiscent of “The Goldfinch” in the beginning with Samuel, his lost mother Faye and his “bad boy” friend Bishop, but about half way through the book it went off the rails and into the weeds. I hung on but the book never regained its original 5-star magic. I think there was just too much going on, in addition to a number of odd plot devices and stunts that were distracting (like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” chapters and “The Nix” character, a Norwegian house spirit that borrows more than a little bit from Kreacher, the house elf in “Harry Potter”).
I still really liked it. I just wish Hill’s editor had said, “You know what, sport? I think you have 3 very good books here! Here’s a big fat contract – let’s start with ONE book. I’ll let you choose your own adventure!”
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