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The Crack Magazine

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Wellness by Nathan Hill

Unusually for such a doorstopper of a novel, ‘Wellness’ isn’t weighted down with a sprawling cast of characters. Instead, we largely spend our time with just two people: Elizabeth and Jack. They meet as college students in the early 1990s where they both live in a rundown area of Chicago popular with a boho group of underground artists. Jack is studying photography while Elizabeth has her fingers in many pies (mostly academic) and their burgeoning relationship is painted in idyllic tones. The action then flashes forward to the 2010s. The pair are married, they have a young son, and they’re waiting for their “forever home” to be built. Jack teaches art at a local college while Elizabeth works for ‘Wellness’ – an organisation that seeks to discover the effectiveness, or otherwise, of placebos. But it soon becomes apparent that there is something missing from their lives, which neither Elizabeth, nor Jack, can readily identify. This bravura novel takes an intensely rich delve into two lives, with the narrative flitting back and forth to fill in both Elizabeth’s and Jack’s back stories (she’s from a well-to-do family whose gains are mainly of the ill-gotten variety, while he’s from a Kansas prairie farm). It’s also very funny and shines a light onto everything from mindfulness support groups and fitness cults to algorithm driven conspiracy theory indoctrination. Nathan Hill scored a huge hit with his debut novel – 2017’s ‘The Nix’ – and I expect this one to receive similar acclaim. It left me feeling nourished. RM

Published by Picador