This novel is a coming of age exploration of Samuel Andresen-Anderson. He is plagued throughout his life by what the Scandinavian's in his background called the Nix; someone who love who leaves, breaking your heart. Samuel's Nix is his mother, Faye. She walks out when he is just entering his teenage years and he doesn't hear from her again in his adolescence. Faye becomes known though as a radical whom the police and government agencies are on the lookout for. Samuel doesn't understand why whatever Faye is fighting for is more important to her than he and his dad.
He becomes friends with a pair of twins in his town. Bishop is his best friend and is obsessed with the military. He also knows how to stand up against authority yet takes up for those bullied. His sister, Bethany, plays the violin at a professional level. She is Samuel's first love although he is too shy to tell her so. Yet the Nix strikes once again and his friends are moved away at the end of the year and he loses touch with them also.
Now Samuel is grown and stalled. He is teaching English to unappreciative students and fighting a huge case of writer's block. He is discontented but doesn't know what to do next until his mother shows up again in headlines. She came out of hiding and threw rocks at a candidate, a governor with hopes of being President. Now the FBI is after her as well as a vengeful policeman who blames Faye for all his life's troubles. Can Samuel find his mother and help her before she is captured?
This novel won the L.A. Times Book Prize For First Fiction. It was also named one of the year's (2016) best books by NPR, Amazon, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others. The reader is drawn into Samuel's life and can't help pulling for him as he encounters disappointment after disappointment. As he finally moves towards making positive moves in his life, he gives the reader a sense that it's never too late to grow up or to stop letting the world define one's personality and fate. This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.