Theodore Mead Fegley should have had the world by the tail, he’s a genius who breezed through school and by fifteen was accepted into the University of Chicago. However, growing up different in a small town proved difficult, especially with a mother Mead nicknamed, the six-legged monster and the ceaseless bullying at school. The prospect of starting his life over in a new setting fail to materialize although Mead excels at his studies, particularly his work on a mathematical problem known as the Riemann Hypothesis.
Inexplicitly, Mead leaves college six days before graduation to return home to High Grove. A major falling out between Mead and his friend Herman Weinstein, a fellow math student, are at the heart of his defection from academia. Mead’s mother is determined to figure out what happened and get her son back on track while his father takes a more laidback approach. He allows Mead to go to work at the family furniture and undertaking business with his brother Martin giving the troubled young man time to sort through his problems.
As the story alternates between Mead’s bullied youth and his life as an alienated young college student trying desperately to fit in with a much older crowd, what unfolds is an unevenly paced, coming of age story. Although the characters are finely developed and Mead makes a credible effort to do right, the storyline lacks enough original material to make this sparkle. The thriller aspect fails to provide the edginess or obligatory twists readers have come to expect although the coming of age theme rings true.