Have you ever felt that your existence in this huge universe does not matter? That no one would care whether you lived here or not? The thing is you are not alone. Colin Singleton, a child prodigy, feels this way and after being dumped repeatedly by girls named Katherine, he wants to matter badly.
Colin is your typical smart fellow. A person who reads for hours daily, memorizing everything that he reads. Whether it’s the name of a Canadian senator long dead or a language known by few, Colin usually knows everything but that is not enough. He fears that he will not be able to realize his potential (an IQ north of 200), eventually being forgotten by the world. Being dumped does not help either and overshadows everything else, especially due to the fact that he has only one friend-a Lebanese Muslim Hasan.
To ease Colin’s depression, Hasan suggests that they go on a road trip.A road trip without a destination. They end up in a small town Gutshot, Tennessee. They are hosted by the family who owns the local textile factory where most of the people of the town are employed. To prove that he is a genius, Colin starts working on a mathematical formula that would be able to predict the lifetime of any relationship if initial data about the two people is given. With this he believes that he will get his girl back.
When he is not collecting oral histories about the town for his host for a pay of $500 per week, Colin works on his formula adding variables and trying to make it work. He meets the local people and learns about the local history. All the while, he feels a hole in his stomach as if his last girlfriend,Katherine XIX, has taken a part of him from him.
The novel discusses a few things in interesting detail. The first is self actualization. From early childhood, Colin forms an opinion that he must do something extraordinary otherwise his life would be a waste. The experience at Gutshots teaches him that History decides which person is forgotten and which is not. Franz Ferdinand became famous not for doing something extraordinary. Rather,he did nothing. His death became the reason for millions of deaths afterward. Colin realizes that thinking about mattering won’t help him matter but make him bitter and depressed all the time.He also learns to be less self-centered and to tell story without including unnecessary information between sentences.
The novel is a good blend of humor and theme based writing complemented by well developed characters and interesting footnotes. Colin, despite being very intelligent, suffers from everyday problems.This helps the reader develop a connection with him during his “enlightenment period at Gutshot”.