Finished Nathan Hill's 'The Nix' fairly quickly in the plane. Good writing with plot twists that held my attention, plausible developments, but it's still a family drama of a son's search for his mother's secrets. While it makes for an interesting read, I don't like it very much. (Reviews here, here, here and here.)
I should have known that the portions and references to ghosts ('Nix' refers to a Norwegian water spirit that carries away little children) aren't real. A Nix definitely alludes to long-buried family secrets and childhood misunderstandings. These fears and scars often involve a mean toxic human who is your personal ghost and jinx rather than anything truly supernatural.
"People love each other for many reason, not all of them good," she said. "They love each other because it's easy. Or because they're used to it. Or because they've given up. Or because they're scared. People can be a Nix for each other."
Protagonist English Professor Samuel Andresen-Anderson is living with the psychological scars of his mother Faye abandoning him and his father Henry twenty years ago. The book recalls his childhood and relationship with a pair of twins, Bishop and Bethany Fall. It tells of how a vindictive student Laura Pottsdam campaigned for his removal at the college. It also tells Faye's story of her growing up years and how everything has culminated in 61-year-old Faye being charged with the assault of a certain Conservative right-wing Governor Sheldon Packer, and her trial being presided over by a Judge Charlie Brown who takes an interest in prosecuting her.
Mainly the story talks about how the broken bonds between a mother and child slowly heal, and how they begin to learn to trust each other as adults, now that the child has grown to perhaps be the mother's moral equal or otherwise, instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Anger was such an easy emotion to feel, the refuge off someone who didn't want to work too hard. Because his life in the summer of 2011 had been unfulfilling and going nowhere and he was so angry about it. Angry at his mother for leaving, angry at Bethany for not loving him, angry at his students for being uneducatable. He'd settled into the anger because the anger was so much easier than the work required to escape it. Blaming Bethany for not loving him was so much easier than the introspection needed to understand what he was doing that made him unlovable. Blaming his students for being uninspired was so much easier than doing the work required to inspire them. On any given day, it was so much easier to settle in front of his computer than to face his stagnant life, to actually face in a real way the hole inside him that his mother left when she abandoned him, and if you make the easy choice every day, then it becomes a pattern, and your patterns become your life. He sank into Elfscape like a shipwreck into the water.