In his debut novel, High Cotton, Pinckney created a narrator who resists the reductive racial identity thrust upon him by society and embarks on a journey to define his individualism against and within the historical truth of his family, race, and upbringing. Similar themes run through this novel, as we follow Jed Goodfinch, a recently sober, young, gay black man in search of intellectual and psychological redemption in the fading days of West Germany. Escaping his native Chicago to live with his second cousin, Cello, Jed accepts employment with a renowned architect with an eye toward rebuilding Berlin in prewar stylings. In an attempt to restructure both the city and his own fragmented identity, Jed enters liminal stages of transition from addiction to sobriety and American to expat as Germany undergoes reunification. Meanwhile, his complicated but stable family structure crumbles, forcing Jed to close the physical and emotional distance between his new life in Berlin and his childhood roots in Chicago. In a narrative that intersperses humor with literary parables, Pinckney successfully prods at the protected and tightly bounded yet fraught arena of self-actualization and identity.