Realism and fantasy collide in Jonathan Lethem's genre-bending coming-of-age story, which follows two estranged brothers as they try to leave New York City for a new life in California only to find their plans--and lives--being forever changed by the appearance of a mysterious alien. We follow Paul--fresh from dropping out of college and living unhappily at home with his parents--as he arrives in New York City's Washington Square Park in search of his younger brother Don, who was kicked out of their parents' home a year earlier with neither Paul or their parents hearing from him since. Realizing their lives are at a dead end and looking to forge a new future together, Paul suggests that the two hop a plane for California and "leave all the bullshit behind." After a robbery intended to raise money for their trip goes awry, the brothers find themselves being pursued not only by the drug dealers they ripped off, but by a sufferer: one of the sphinx-like creatures that roam the city, trailing after people in trouble. The brothers' interaction with this fantastical creature turns the story on its head with both humorous and heart-wrenching results. What does the sufferer want and why is it following them? Has it come to help or hurt them? Is it a guardian angel or death angel? Like a walking enigma that eludes the explanations of all who encounter it, the brothers' immutable new "friend" offers no easy answers.
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