I think Colson Whitehead might be some sort of magician.
I was reading "Apex Hides the Hurt" and I thought the first part of it was all right. Nothing very exciting about a man whose job it is to create brand names for household objects. I didn't even think he was very good at his job because his major triumph was naming a shoddy, discount adhesive first aid strip Apex. I wouldn't buy a band-aid called Apex. It sounds like a telecommunication firm.
The story fell apart a little in the second part of the novel. Our hero is asked to rename the town of Winthrop to entice more people to live there. It's a quirky little town with a dark, racially charged past, but he wants to name it New Prospera. I wouldn't want to live in a town called New Prospera. It sounds like a new-age hippie commune.
I thought this was a book about consumerism, materialism and the importance we place on the outward appearance to things (and people). It is about all those things and much more.
In the third, and last, section of the book I realized that the author had been playing a game with me and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I can't reveal here what the trick was, but it changed the whole book for me. When I realized what the author had done, I wanted to start reading the book all over again to figure out how he did it. Whitehead is a very clever author, to keep me in the dark for so long.
I actually was not going to recommend this book, until I realized what a clever thing the author had done, and now I say, everyone should read it. The epiphany was worth the wait for me.
"You call something by a name, you fix it in place. A thing or a person, it didn't matter - the name you gave it allowed you to draw a bead, take aim, shoot. But there was a flip side of calling something by the name you gave it - and that was wanting to be called by the name that you gave to yourself. What is the name that will give me the dignity and respect that is my right? The key that will unlock the world."