Thankfully Colson Whitehead’s worst novel is also his shortest. Apex Hides the Hurt, his third novel is perplexing confusing and neither of those is a compliment. His work varies for me, with books like The Underground Railroad and John Henry Days being fantastic, The Intuitionist and Zone One being good but a little too odd and Sag Harbor being a disappointment, but this book seems like a failed experiment in odd narration and a book that doesn’t seem to have a point at all. It’s set up is very similar to John Henry Days but without the charm and scope of that superior book. The characters are weak and the book’s motivation is even weaker and murkier than that. In the short time it took me to read this book, I found out rather easily why this book is his least lauded one to date. At the center of this book is an unnamed black nomenclature consultant who is contacted by the town of Winthrop. The town has a bit of a conflict in that it wants to change its name but the town itself can’t agree on what it should be called. Three different groups of people of varying influence want it to be named a certain way and this consultant must figure out a way to please everyone. The best part of this novel is also its goofiest. It involves the unnamed consultant and how he lost his big toe, which involves stubbing it, multiple times and stepping in literal shit. It is where this strangely unsatisfying book gets its odd title, because Apex is the name of the bandage company. There is very little pleasing about this book, and I am glad it came early in the career of one of the most exciting and versatile writers in America today.