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The Nix
Cover of The Nix
The Nix
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
Winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
A New York Times
2016 Notable Book
Entertainment Weekly's #1 Book of the Year
A Washington Post 2016 Notable Book
A Slate Top Ten Book
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"The Nix is a mother-son psychodrama with ghosts and politics, but it's also a tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America. . . . Nathan Hill is a maestro." —John Irving

From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores—with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness—the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.
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 paints 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.
Winner of the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
A New York Times
2016 Notable Book
Entertainment Weekly's #1 Book of the Year
A Washington Post 2016 Notable Book
A Slate Top Ten Book
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"The Nix is a mother-son psychodrama with ghosts and politics, but it's also a tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America. . . . Nathan Hill is a maestro." —John Irving

From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores—with sharp humor and a fierce tenderness—the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change.
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 paints 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.
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  • From the cover PROLOGUE

    Late Summer 1988

    If Samuel had known his mother was leaving, he might have paid more attention. He might have listened more carefully to her, observed her more closely, written certain crucial things down. Maybe he could have acted differently, spoken differently, been a different person.

    Maybe he could have been a child worth sticking around for.

    But Samuel did not know his mother was leaving. He did not know she had been leaving for many months now—in secret, and in pieces. She had been removing items from the house one by one. A single dress from her closet. Then a lone photo from the album. A fork from the silverware drawer. A quilt from under the bed. Every week, she took something new. A sweater. A pair of shoes. A Christmas ornament. A book. Slowly, her presence in the house grew thinner.

    She'd been at it almost a year when Samuel and his father began to sense something, a sort of instability, a puzzling and disturbing and some-times even sinister feeling of depletion. It struck them at odd moments. They looked at the bookshelf and thought: Don't we own more books than that? They walked by the china cabinet and felt sure something was missing. But what? They could not give it a name—this impression that life's details were being reorganized. They didn't understand that the reason they were no longer eating Crock-­Pot meals was that the Crock-Pot was no longer in the house. If the bookshelf seemed bare, it was because she had pruned it of its poetry. If the china cabinet seemed a little vacant, it was because two plates, two bowls, and a teapot had been lifted from the collection.

    They were being burglarized at a very slow pace.

    "Didn't there used to be more photos on that wall?" Samuel's father said, standing at the foot of the stairs, squinting. "Didn't we have that picture from the Grand Canyon up there?"

    "No," Samuel's mother said. "We put that picture away."

    "We did? I don't remember that."

    "It was your decision."

    "It was?" he said, befuddled. He thought he was losing his mind. Years later, in a high-school biology class, Samuel heard a story about a certain kind of African turtle that swam across the ocean to lay its eggs in South America. Scientists could find no reason for the enormous trip. Why did the turtles do it? The leading theory was that they began doing it eons ago, when South America and Africa were still locked together. Back then, only a river might have separated the continents, and the turtles laid their eggs on the river's far bank. But then the continents began drifting apart, and the river widened by about an inch per year, which would have been invisible to the turtles. So they kept going to the same spot, the far bank of the river, each generation swimming a tiny bit farther than the last one, and after a hundred million years of this, the river had become an ocean, and yet the turtles never noticed.

    This, Samuel decided, was the manner of his mother's departure. This was how she moved away—imperceptibly, slowly, bit by bit. She whittled down her life until the only thing left to remove was herself.

    On the day she disappeared, she left the house with a single suitcase.


    1

    the headline appears one afternoon on several news websites almost simultaneously: governor packer attacked!

    Television picks it up moments later, bumping into programming for a Breaking News Alert as the anchor looks gravely into the camera and says, "We're hearing from our correspondents in Chicago that Governor Sheldon Packer has been attacked." And that's all anyone knows for a...
About the Author-
  • Nathan Hill's short fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including The Iowa Review, AGNI, The Gettysburg Review, and Fiction, which awarded him its annual Fiction Prize. A native Iowan, he lives with his wife in Naples, Florida.


Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 2, 2016
    Hill’s first novel offers an ironic view of 21st-century elections, education, pop culture, and marketing, with flashbacks to 1988, 1968, and 1944. The action begins in 2011, when Samuel Anderson, an English professor who prefers playing World of Elfquest online to teaching Hamlet to college students, learns that Faye, the mother who abandoned him when he was 11, has been arrested for throwing stones at flamboyant ultraconservative presidential candidate Sheldon Packer. News media repeatedly show Faye’s photo from her young hippie days along with a video of the attack. In an attempt to help his mother and himself, Samuel digs into Faye’s past, focusing on the Iowa town where she grew up and 1968 Chicago, where she unwittingly became caught between protesters and police. Samuel’s search—with assistance from Pwnage, an Elfquest savant—uncovers a judge with a 50-year-old grudge, a grandfather with a 70-year-old secret, and a world where the official story and the truth often diverge. The Nix of Hill’s title is a Norwegian mythological being that carries loved ones away, a physical and metaphorical representation of fear and loss, much like the Under Toad in John Irving’s The World According to Garp. Like Irving, Hill skillfully blends humor and darkness, imagery and observation. He also excels at describing technology, addiction, cultural milestones, and childhood ordeals. Cameos by Allen Ginsberg, Walter Cronkite, and Hubert Humphrey add heart and perspective to this rich, lively take on American social conflict, real and invented, over the last half-century. 100,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman Literary.

  • AudioFile Magazine The inspired pairing of one of the most promising novelists in years with a gifted narrator who brings intelligence, humor, and immediacy to every word makes for a rare listening treat. Ari Fliakos finds a true and distinct voice for every character--from the emotionally overwhelmed and underachieving writer in search of his long absent mother to a hippie entrepreneur on the make, a dirty cop on the take, a vocally fried coed, and even a sly Norwegian house spirit, the Nix himself. Sometimes a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale, at other times a searing sociopolitical examination of the last 60 years, this sprawling and very American story makes for marvelous listening. With a perfect mix of vocal energy, world-weariness, and keen observations, Hill's novel seems boundless. B.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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