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Nicotine: A Novel by Nell Zink

Nicotine: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Nell Zink (Author)

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1666113,306 (3.14)3
The conventional one in a non-conventional family, Penny Baker inherits her father's childhood home in New Jersey. She finds the property not overgrown and abandoned, but occupied by a group of friendly anarchist squatters whom she finds unexpectedly charming, and who have renamed the property Nicotine House. The residents are defenders of smokers' rights, and they possess the type of passion and fervor Penny feels she's desperately lacking. As her family's lives begin to converge around the fate of the Nicotine House, a reckless confrontation between her old family and her new one changes everything.… (more)
Title:Nicotine: A Novel
Authors:Nell Zink (Author)
Info:Ecco (2017), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:anarchist, activism, politics

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Nicotine by Nell Zink



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Psychedelic misfits. I really had a hard time understanding these characters. Maybe it is because I am from a different generation. Could not understand people who seem to have nothing to do but squat in empty homes for causes that I couldn't understand. It seemed to me that the individuals certainly seemed to have enough money for doing things, just not paying rent.
The writing was intense, with much verbiage of a political tone. I just think I am not all that politically knowledgeable, so it didn't fit in my little world. ( )
  JReynolds1959 | Mar 25, 2019 |
Joy's Review: A young woman deals with the loss of her father and a complete lack of purpose by winding up in a communal living situation. It took me a while to find the rhythm of this book, but once I connected with the style, I enjoyed it very much. Funny and sarcastic, Zink pokes fun at all of us who think we know what we want, but really don't. I found it very entertaining. But I warn you: most of our book club hated this book! ( )
  konastories | Mar 5, 2018 |
I really, really liked this book, but find it hard to review. I was telling some friends what it was about, and they thought it would be very dark and off-putting....but it isn't.

Penny is a young woman caring for her dying father (Norm) who is a shaman. Her mother, Amalia, was adopted by Norm, but several years later, marries him. Penny has two half brothers...what happened to their mother is a mystery...who are slightly older than her mother. After Norm dies, Penny agrees to reclaim a family-owned home now occupied by squatters. Those squatters are quasi-anarchists/revolutionaries. Their common interest is smokers' rights. Penny falls in love with one of them, as do her sociopath oldest brother and her widowed mother. It's all very unconventional, but makes sense in the context of the characters' lives and isn't dark or sunny...it's both/neither...as they say, "it is what it is" and we adapt to our surroundings.

The story is about coming of age, understanding that the past isn't as definitive as we'd like....people have different perspectives and understandings of what happened and why. It's a really good read and I''ll be reading more of Ms. Zink's works. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 2, 2018 |
I picked up this book through a Book of the Month subscription. I was not familiar with any of the authors and [bookcover:Nicotine|28434290] seemed the most interesting of my options. I have been well rewarded by my choice.
Summing up what this book is about is hard to do in a sentence or two. This book is a "coming of age" tale, but not only in the traditional sense. The book's main character is a young woman on the cusp of creating her own identity and it seems like everyone else is along for the ride with her. All of the main characters "come of age" throughout the book.
Nicotine is a fictional sociological survey peering into a very particular socio-political group I had no prior knowledge of. The book delves into the living arrangements, social dynamics, various belief structures and general day to day lives of these neo-quasi revolutionaries.
Nicotine is a guidebook through the stages of grief. The main character, throughout the story, goes through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Nell Zink is a phenomenal author who offers a unique perspective of the world. I look forward to going back and reading her previous works and am anxious to see what she has in store next. ( )
  EardStapa | Feb 14, 2017 |
Nell Zink is an author I’ve had on my must read list for ages. I’ve borrowed Mislaid a couple of times from the library, but never got the time to actually read it. Then in my local bookshop I saw the cover of Nicotine and fell in love. How ironic! How cool! Then when the bookseller told me enthusiastically how much he loved Nell Zink (he hadn’t yet read Nicotine, but loved The Wallcreeper), I was sold. I wanted to love this book so hard, but in reality it made me feel old and out of touch. The writing is brilliant, detailed and ironic but the subject matter mainly made me think…what?

You could divide up Nicotine into two or three sections, the first being the end of life of Penny’s beloved father, second her initiation into squatters and their causes and the third being slowly re-joining the majority of the human race in terms of a job. The first part with Penny’s father is haunting, sad and downright disgusting in places. Even though Penny and her father Norm are fictional, I was really incensed as to the care Norm received in “palliative care”. It was absolutely rubbish, and no care was involved! Norm’s care in the hospice should have been in tune holistically with his own following as a Shamanist, but it was the completely opposite. It shouldn’t have been like that!

After Norm’s death, Penny is at a loose end. Unemployed and having done a large chunk of care for her father, the rest of the (highly dysfunctional) family decide that she should rescue Norm’s parents’ house from the squatters and restore it. Initially she goes reluctantly, but on meeting the squatters at the house now called Nicotine, she falls for Rob, an asexual bicycle repairer. She joins the group in what they say is pro-smoker’s rights. In reality it means being cordoned off at rallies and sitting around a lot, talking about saving the world but being focused on sex, Bucket Monsters and hanging around smoking/drinking. This was the part I really didn’t understand very much. Is it meant to be some kind of irony, rebels who don’t do much rebelling? People with labels that don’t match their reality? All the characters are unique and quirky, but I really couldn’t care about them too deeply nor could I work out their trajectory. This section made me feel old! Am I missing references to hipster or alternative culture? I’m going to take the whole things as an ironic post-college rebellion by not really doing much but working at being alternative.

Then Penny starts to realise that maybe Rob isn’t her thing and gets a job. She goes to work, dresses in a suit. Meanwhile the other residents of Nicotine have fled after the escape of the Bucket Monster after a nasty incident involving Penny’s brother. They are on a road trip, lost but looking for similar people and places. Meanwhile, order is being restored to Nicotine by the way of Penny’s brother, who is trying to impress one of Nicotine’s now former residents. Will it work? Will Penny get back with Rob? It’s all a bit confusing as characters move on, then return to square one.

The writing is what makes Nicotine compelling, addictive like its namesake. But as for content…maybe we aren’t meant to be emotionally involved in this book but cynically taking a look at lazy politics. I’ve bought The Wallcreeper on the bookseller’s recommendation to read, and am hoping that I enjoy it more.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Jan 7, 2017 |
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