With a keen sense of irony, the author gives no name to this novel's protagonist, who works as a nomenclature specialist--i.e., he develops names for products. After a triumphant campaign for Apex bandages (which come in every possible flesh tone) and a mysterious mishap, the narrator takes on a commission to arbitrate a potential name change for the town of Winthrop. A local self-made millionaire wants to call the town New Prospera, but the African-American mayor would like to see the restoration of the town's original name, Freedom. Meanwhile, 'Uncle Albie' Winthrop, the last descendant of the man who gave the town its current name, favors leaving the name alone. The semantic battles have profound implications for the relationships among the various races and classes of the community, and the unhinged life of the novel's protagonist. In this dark, piercing, smart, and funny novel, Colson Whitehead shows his deft understanding of the power of branding, and its influence on people's reality and happiness.