Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1464
An Abundance of Katherines (2006) is written from the perspective of the novel's main character, Colin Singleton, child prodigy and recent high school graduate. To cure Colin's recent depression over his breakup with Katherine (number nineteen in the series of Katherines that Colin has dated), Hassan Harbish feels that they should depart on a road trip. After convincing their parents that a road trip is a good idea, Colin and Hassan go south from their home of Chicago.
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In Kentucky, the boys take a detour to see the advertised gravesite of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. They arrive in a small town called Gutshot where they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, who has a smile that could “end wars and cure cancer."
As Lindsey takes Hassan and Colin to the archduke’s grave, Colin trips and hits his head on a rock. Lindsey—a paramedic in training—runs for medical supplies. While Colin is lying on the ground, he has his “Eureka” moment. Ignoring the pain in his head, he sketches out a graph and insists that the outcome of a relationship between any two people can be predicted. Lindsey returns, bandages Colin, and is informed of his Eureka moment and his history of Katherines. She laughs because she has only dated one boy—whose name is Colin. Then, Colin flashes back to the story of Katherine 1, in third grade.
Back in the present, the threesome reach the graveyard, and Lindsey gives a short speech about the archduke. Some of Lindsey’s friends arrive—her boyfriend, Colin (whom Hassan and Colin dub "The Other Colin" or "TOC"), and then Chase, Fulton, and Katrina. They find Hollis, Lindsey’s mother, waiting at the store when they return. Hollis recognizes Colin from his brief appearance on a short-lived game show and invites the boys to dinner.
Lindsey rides with Colin and points out the main employer in town—the factory Lindsey’s mother owns that makes tampon strings. After reaching the house, Colin begins work on his "Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability." During dinner, Hollis offers the boys $500 a week plus living arrangements to work for her for the summer. The boys accept.
The next day, Colin and Hassan discover that their job is to interview people in Gutshot for an oral history. With Lindsey accompanying them, the boys begin with Starnes Wilson, a man who has lived in Gutshot his entire life. The smell of Starnes’s home reminds Colin of Katherine 19’s basement and the first time they kissed. Later that night, Colin works on his theorem, and Lindsey explains to him the finer points of good storytelling.
After another day of interviews, Hassan and Colin drive through back roads, and Colin makes the disastrous decision to call Katherine 19. At home, Colin tries unsuccessfully to work on his theorem. Deciding he will not able to finish the theorem, Colin sets out to burn his notebook. Lindsey convinces Colin not to burn the notebook, but to let her hold on to it for a few days.
On their fifth night in Gutshot, Hassan goes out with Lindsey and her friends. When Hassan returns, he informs Colin that he has made plans to go hunting for pigs with Lindsey and her friends. Colin does not see the appeal of this, but Hassan wants adventure.
The next day, Hassan calls in “sick” to work, which leaves Colin and Lindsey to interview “the oldsters”—people who used to work at the factory and now live in a retirement home. Colin notices that Lindsey is popular among the residents. During the interviews, Lindsey receives some troubling news: Hollis is selling some of the factory’s land, and a new subdivision will be built there.
The following nights, Hassan goes “cruising” with Lindsey and her friends, while Colin continues to work on his theorem (which now works for all but two Katherines). Hassan comes home elated because he kissed Katrina, and they have a date set up. Hassan and Colin argue about this and remain cold to each other throughout the next day. At the end of the day of interviewing, Colin and Hassan fight about how their friendship has changed. After each boy explains his side of the story, the friendship is repaired, and the boys go into the store where "The Other Colin" invites Colin to go hunting with them.
Later that night, Hassan leaves for his date with Katrina. Lindsey and Colin go out for dinner, and then Lindsey teaches Colin how to shoot a shotgun. After a couple hours of practice, Lindsey reveals her real reason for being upset that Hollis is selling the land—her secret hiding place on the property. She asks Colin if he wants to see it. In another flashback, Colin tells how Katherine 1 became Katherine 19.
Lindsey takes Colin to her secret place, a small cave accessible through a barely visible crevice in the rocks. There, Lindsey explains that she was unpopular in grade school. In the dark, Lindsey brings her head close to Colin, and they sit with their foreheads touching. On the drive back to the house, she insists they forget about it because “it would never work.” Lindsey and Colin enter the house and hear Hollis in the middle of an angry phone call. Lindsey and Colin sneak upstairs, figuring it has something to do with the warehouse. Lindsey decides a trip is in order—to the factory warehouse in Memphis.
The next day, hunting day, Colin, Hassan, and Lindsey meet Katrina, TOC, Chase, and Fulton at the hunting lodge. Colin and Hassan go with TOC’s father, Mr. Lyford. Once they are on a trail, Mr. Lyford goes ahead to find the pig while Hassan takes a nap and Colin thinks about why the theorem does not work for Katherine 3. Colin calls her and finds out a starling fact: he dumped her.
After encountering a feral hog and being attacked by hornets, the boys are now lost. They wander until they come upon the graveyard where the archduke is buried. The boys are relieved but are stopped by seeing Katrina and TOC in the graveyard in a compromising position. Colin and Hassan approach TOC and Katrina. Colin turns on the mini-recorder he has in his pocket in time to catch the end of TOC and Katrina’s confession as well as TOC’s threats of violence if Colin say anything to Lindsey. Lindsey, Chase, and Fulton return, and eventually Colin plays the recorded confession to Lindsey, which results in a fight between all of the boys.
The next day, everyone is depressed and sore from the previous day’s events. Colin finishes his theorem and shows it to Lindsey and Hassan. Lindsey asks Colin to graph her and TOC’s relationship, and she is not surprised by what she sees. To counter the depressive feeling in the room, Hassan announces that he has registered for two college classes.
The next Thursday, Colin, Lindsey, and Hassan travel to the textile warehouse in Memphis to spy on Hollis. There, they see a man with a bulldozer burying boxes of tampon strings. When Hollis arrives, she explains that the company could only sell a quarter of the tampon string they produced. Lindsey draws the conclusion that Hollis buried the extra product because she did not want to have to lay off any workers. On the way back from Memphis, Hassan has his own revelation: he decides he is going to be a “doer,” and Colin supports this decision.
When Hassan and Colin arrive home, Hollis announces that Lindsey is spending the night at her friend’s house. Taking this as code, Colin finds Lindsey at her secret spot. Lindsey asks Colin to tell her the story of the Katherines. He recounts each of the Katherines 1 through 19, and comes to the conclusion that “you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened” and “breaking up isn’t something that gets done to you; it’s something that happens with you." He and Lindsey then have their first kiss.
The next morning, Colin enters himself and Lindsey into the formula, and, according to the graph, she will break up with him on the fourth day. Colin wakes the next day to a note on his bed from Lindsey, explaining that she just wants to be friends, but she is just kidding. Later, as Hassan and Lindsey play poker, Colin tries to adjust his formula to explain how he and Lindsey are still together. Colin comes to the conclusion that the future, like a poker game, cannot be predicted accurately. Leaving the house to get some food, the threesome decide that they can just keep going: they do not have to stop at this exit or the next, so they drive off into the future.