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Nicotine
by Nell Zink


Overview -

One of Huffington Post's 20 Fall 2016 Books You'll Need for Your Bookshelf

Featured in New York Magazine's Fall 2016 Preview

One of Slate's Best Books of 2016

An Entertainment Weekly Fall 2016 Must-Read

Featured in LitHub's 2016 Bookseller's Fall Preview

Featured in The Guardian Fall 2016 Books Preview: The Best American Writing

From the "wonderfully talented" (Dwight Garner, New York Times ) author of Mislaid and The Wallcreeper comes a fierce and audaciously funny new novel, dazzling in its energy and ambition: a story of obsession, idealism, and ownership, centered around a young woman who inherits her bohemian father's childhood home.  Read more...


 
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More About Nicotine by Nell Zink
 
 
 
Overview

One of Huffington Post's 20 Fall 2016 Books You'll Need for Your Bookshelf

Featured in New York Magazine's Fall 2016 Preview

One of Slate's Best Books of 2016

An Entertainment Weekly Fall 2016 Must-Read

Featured in LitHub's 2016 Bookseller's Fall Preview

Featured in The Guardian Fall 2016 Books Preview: The Best American Writing

From the "wonderfully talented" (Dwight Garner, New York Times) author of Mislaid and The Wallcreeper comes a fierce and audaciously funny new novel, dazzling in its energy and ambition: a story of obsession, idealism, and ownership, centered around a young woman who inherits her bohemian father's childhood home.

Recent business school graduate Penny Baker has rebelled against her family her whole life-by being the conventional one. Her mother, Amalia, was a member of an Amazonian tribe called the Kogi; her much older father, Norm, long ago attained cult-like deity status among a certain group of aging hippies while operating a 'healing center' in New Jersey. And she's never felt particularly close to her much-older half-brothers from Norm's previous marriage-one wickedly charming and obscenely rich (but mostly just wicked), one a photographer on a distant tropical island.


But all that changes when her father dies, and Penny inherits his childhood home in New Jersey. She goes to investigate the property and finds it not overgrown and abandoned, but rather occupied by a group of friendly anarchist squatters whom she finds unexpectedly charming, and who have renamed the property Nicotine House. The residents of Nicotine House (defenders of smokers' rights) possess the type of passion and fervor Penny feels she's desperately lacking, and the other squatter houses in the neighborhood provide a sense of community Penny's never felt before, and she soon moves into a nearby residence, becoming enmeshed in the political fervor and commitment of her fellow squatters.

As the Baker family's lives begin to converge around the fate of the Nicotine House, Penny grows ever bolder and more desperate to protect it-and its residents-until a fateful night when a reckless confrontation between her old family and her new one changes everything.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062441706
  • ISBN-10: 0062441701
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: October 2016
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.56 x 6.38 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Family Life

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2016-08-15
  • Reviewer: Staff

Zink’s novel of anarchy in life, love, and real estate focuses on Penny Baker, daughter of healing expert and retired shaman Norm Baker, who dies after a prolonged painful illness, leaving behind Penny and her disjointed family. Amalia, Norm’s adopted daughter whom he rescued from a Cartagena garbage dump, is also Norm’s second wife and Penny’s mom. As a not-so-grieving widow, Amalia lusts after hard-hearted Matt, Norm’s oldest son from his first marriage. After seeing Norm through his last days, Penny finds herself homeless, unemployed, and haunted by memories. Matt suggests she reclaim the family’s neglected Jersey City house, but the house, christened “Nicotine” by the anarchist activist squatters who occupy it, has only one vacant room, and it’s filled with toxic waste drums. So Penny moves into another squatter home and visits Nicotine, where she falls for self-proclaimed asexual Rob. In bold strokes, punchy metaphors, and striking imagery, Zink etches her absurdist vision of modern culture, likening Norm’s hospice to a brothel licensed as a strip club because customers must ask for what they want in code (such as sex at the brothel, or quick, painless death through drugs at the hospice). Scenes of watching a loved one die and anarchists giving more family support than family add a touching chord to this impertinent, mordant portrait of a corroded society badly in need of reclamation. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A Gonzo-styled coming-of-age story

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a title less likely to attract readers than the one attached to Nell Zink’s third novel. But anyone put off by it will miss out on a quirky and consistently engaging story about the millennial generation’s circuitous journey to find its way in the world.

The “Nicotine” of the novel’s title is a decrepit house in a “heroin-type neighborhood” of Jersey City that was the childhood home of Norman Baker, an “animist drug freak” whose medical clinic in Brazil attracted a group of passionate followers. When Norman’s devoted daughter, Penny, is evicted from his Upper West Side apartment after his death, she decides to explore the possibility of taking up residence at Nicotine, and arrives to find the house has been occupied by a group of activists united only by their passion for tobacco products. Soon the romantic lives of these characters entangle with those of Penny and her much older stepbrother, Matt, in ways that would make the term “it’s complicated” an understatement.

Zink’s fast-paced chronicle of the couplings and uncouplings that ensue amid a group that includes women named Sorry and Jazz and a self-avowed asexual bicycle activist is smart and never predictable. Though she was born a generation earlier than most of her characters, Zink is keenly attuned to the emotional weather that swirls around them. Based on the trials of Penny and her friends, she gives us reason to be optimistic about the millenials’ maturation, even as they seem destined to encounter a unique brand of stumbles along the way.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews