A slew of publications have, unsurprisingly, included The Nix on their lists of best books of 2016. This is Hill’s first book, and it’s hefty: 640 pages in print, and on 17 discs in audio. The narration by Ari Fliakos is as extraordinary and award-worthy as the book itself, making this a not-to-be-missed title. The story’s main character, Samuel Andresen-Anderson, is a college professor in 2011 Chicago—a failed author, an online gamer, and, overall, a man unhappy with his life. We look back at his childhood, most notably to the day his mother left him and his father when he was 11. We also learn about Faye, his mother, her life growing up in Iowa with her odd Norwegian father, and her short-lived college career in Chicago at the time of the violent 1968 Democratic National Convention. Samuel hasn’t seen Faye in over 25 years, but she becomes a sudden celebrity when she’s arrested for throwing a handful of gravel at a right-wing presidential candidate. Faye’s lawyer reaches out to Samuel to serve as a character witness, while his publisher asks him to write a scathing expose of the woman who abandoned him. What Samuel wants most is to understand why she left him. Side stories add depth and humor, and provide Fliakos with his finest moments, including a college student accused of plagiarism, and an obsessive online gamer who frets endlessly about his weight and finances. This book is smart, moving, and wickedly funny.