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 a South American tribe called the Kogi; her much older father, Norm, long ago attained cult-like deity status among a certain cohort of ageing hippies while operating a psychedelic 'healing centre.' 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." The Nicotine residents (united in defence of smokers' rights) possess the type of passion and fervour Penny feels she's desperately lacking, and the other squatter houses in the neighbourhood provide a sense of community she has never felt before. She soon moves into a nearby residence, becoming enmeshed in the political fervour and commitment of her fellow squatters. As the Baker family's lives begin to converge around the fate of the house now called Nicotine, 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. Nell Zink exquisitely captures the clash between Baby-Boomer idealism and Millennial pragmatism, between the have-nots and want-mores, in a riotous yet tender novel that brilliantly encapsulates our time.
Nell Zink grew up in rural Virginia. She has worked at a variety of trades, including masonry and technical writing. In the early 1990s, she edited an indie rock fanzine. Her writing has also appeared in n+1. Her debut novel The Wallcreeper was published in 2014. She lives near Berlin, Germany.