What does it mean to become our best selves? The second novel from Nathan Hill, bestselling author of The Nix, compellingly asserts that this question may be more complex than it seems. Exceptionally introspective and deeply empathetic, Wellness examines the idiosyncrasies of 21st-century human nature through reflecting on the contemporary movement to strive for personal wellbeing.
Elizabeth and Jack meet as first-year college students in 1990s Chicago and fall in love practically at first sight. Twenty years later, middle-aged couple Jack and Elizabeth are living in suburban Park Shore with their 8-year-old son, Toby. Jack is an experimental photographer and adjunct art professor; Elizabeth works as a health care researcher. Through years of analyzing psychological studies, there’s one thing she knows for sure: Happiness tends to follow a U-shaped curve and plummets lowest as one approaches midlife. Unfortunately, she’s also quite certain that, while she and Jack are trendsetters in many ways, they are in this sense stubbornly, frustratingly average.
So begins an epic tale of Jack and Elizabeth’s fervent efforts to recreate the marriage of their youth. They consider separate bedrooms and explore polyamory, but it’s only when they each begin to reexamine their own shoved-aside histories that the crux of their issues comes to the surface.
Wellness is easy to relate to; fitness trackers, toddler tantrums, suburban disputes and even Facebook’s algorithms are just some of the many modern-day experiences that Hill deftly and entertainingly tackles. From life’s most striking moments to its most mundane and overlooked, along with scientific insights dispersed throughout, Hill extracts meaningful lessons. Expansive in both scale and content matter, Wellness is nonetheless a quick and captivating read: a brilliant, touching account of undertaking self-exploration with someone else by your side.