Activist Actualization


Life is filled with defining events, which could affect the trajectory of your future. In Nicotine by Nell Zink, a young woman’s life gets a new path when her father dies.

Penny Baker’s upbringing and family life has been far from ordinary, but despite that, she’s followed a fairly typical path by attending business school and being one of the more conventional ones in a family of less conventional psychologies and tendencies. After her father dies, her older-half brothers and her mother allow her to investigate and improve her grandparents house in New Jersey. When she gets to the house, she finds that it’s not a decrepit, empty house, but rather a functional squatter’s residence named Nicotine after the tobacco imbibing activists who reside there. Rather than evict them, Penny decides to live with them, which changes her perspective and brings her closer to her father in an unexpected way.

This narrative is well-written and it was an interesting read, particularly in light of all contentions the US has been experiencing in the last few months (and weeks in particular), which the narrative also touches upon. The generational divide depicted in the novel is quite accurate, demonstrating the ideals each values, which in turn causes strain between them. I enjoyed how unique and moderately outlandish many of the characters were as this often provided some levity to the events taking place, but this also played to the unbelievable nature of the characters.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

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