26 July 2010

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines
Colin has been dumped. Again. This is the NINETEENTH time he has been dumped. Not only that...it's the nineteenth time he has been dumped by a "Katherine".

Colin's best friend is Hassan. Hassan is always straight with Colin; he tells it like it is. Hassan believes that the only way for Colin to move forward is for him to actually move and so he suggests that they go on an unplanned roadtrip. They wander the open road until they spot a sign which reads :


Colin doubts the veracity of such a statement but Hassan sees the sign as an opportunity (and a chance to stop heading south since the farther south they go, the hotter it becomes.) And so they pull off in seardch of directions to the site.

Soon, Colin and Hassan settle down...in Gutshot, Tennessee, of all places. They are offered food and a place to stay in return for thier assistance in chronicling the town's past. Their employer is Hollis, current owner of the largest factory in town; it's a textile mill...the makes, of all things, tampon strings.

As the two begin to settle Colin's mind begins to develop the idea that there must be a way to mathematically represent the success and failure trajectory of relationships. If only he can develop a viable mathematical theory, he might be able to predict the outcome of future relationships and save himself all sorts of heartache.

Along the way, Colin becomes good friends with Lindsey Lee Wells, daughter of his new employer. Lindsay instructs Colin in the way to tell a good story (one of my favorite passages in the book):

"And you need a good, strong moral. Or a theme or whatever. And the other things is romance and adventure. You've got to put some of those in. If it's a story about peeing into a lion cage, give yourself a girlfriend who notices how gigantic your winky is and then saves you from the lion at the last second by tackling you, because she's desperate to save that gorgeous, ginormous wkiny." Colin blushed, but Lindsey kept going. "In the beginning, you need to pee; in the middle, you do; in the end, through romance and adventure, your winky is saved from the jaws of a hungry lion by the pluck of a young girl motivated by her abiding love for giant winkies. And the moral of the story is that a heroic girlfriend, combined with a giant winky, will save you from even the most desperate sitautions."

Lindsey and Colin work together closely and come up with the answers to the theorem he was developing. Lindsey and Colin end up learning what things really make a person matter. They find that longing also adds to you as much as it detracts from you; it helps to make you the person you become. Eventually Colin realizes that "stories don't just make us matter to each other--maybe they're also the only way to the infinite mattering he'd been after for so long." He also realizes that we all have stories. We change each other by the telling of our stories; by the intertwining of our stories, even in the tiniest ways. Realizing this allowed Colin the first opportunity he'd ever had to know that he could reinvent himself. He didn't have to continue living life the same way he'd always done. He knew that his theorem, and others, could help to predict outcomes but he also realized that theorems don't control people's lives; people have the ultimate control over their lives.

And this...is really just the beginning for Colin.

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