Discussion Questions


  1. Why do Soot’s parents want him to learn how to disappear? Is the act of disappearing meant to be literal or figurative?
  2. When we first hear from the author he tells us to remember that this is a love story. If this is true, what makes it so?
  3. Why would Mott so quickly swing the tone of the novel from the warmth and humanity of Soot and his parents to the absurd comedy of the author’s book tour?
  4. Why does The Kid want the author to see him?
  5. A shooting or the shooting serves as a constant thematic backdrop. How did this affect your reading of the various strands of the novel?
  6. Can you trace the dynamic between Daddy Henry and Soot’s father William? What is each man’s perception of race and racism?
  7. Some sociologists and scholars of horror literature argue that a cultural haunting speaks to something left undone, unaddressed, or unacknowledged. If this is the case in the novel, how can The Kid’s haunting of the author be explained?
  8. When William has “the talk” with Soot it’s referred to as the “bonsai of a child.” What does this mean?
  9. What are we to make of the author’s discovery that he is Black?
  10. In the scene with the author’s literary agent and the media trainer there are two moments of silence taken: one for a murdered Black child and one for the end of Oprah’s book club. Which observance seems most genuine? What kind of commentary is Mott making about society, tragedy, and celebrity?
  11. Renny and Kelly seem to be much more than a media guide and a love interest. What role do you see them playing in the novel?
  12. The Kid believes he will always be safe because his mother and father gave him a special gift. At this moment in the book, how is the novel beginning to circle back on itself?
  13. Two words: Nic Cage. Aside from Jason Mott’s being the ultimate Cage fan, how did his inclusion in the novel affect your perception of the book’s reality?
  14. When the author returns to his hometown he refers to the South as “America’s longest running crime scene,” but in the next breath he expresses his love for the region. How can we square these seemingly contradictory statements? What is Mott allowing for?
  15. When the author returns to Bolton he discusses his compulsion to make things up and live in an alternate reality as being the result of what his therapist believes was some kind of trauma early in his life, but he can’t put his finger on what that trauma could have been. What is your opinion of the possibilities that could explain his way of living in and dealing with the world?
  16. Why is the author called on to speak on behalf of the community after the shooting? What is Mott saying about the pressures and expectations of celebrity in small towns?
  17. In a particularly haunting scene, the author and a police officer discuss race in the middle of the night. During the conversation, the officer tells the author, “Everybody has a fair chance.” How does the novel address this popular response to discussions of racism?
  18. For a time after the author returns home, The Kid does not appear to him. Recall the earlier question about cultural hauntings. Does The Kid’s disappearance mean something has been done? If so, what?
  19. Late in the novel, Soot encounters the police, and the narrator tells us that “in the end, as it is with all of us, he could not be protected from the world.” The scene very clearly lays out the dynamic between a White police officer and a Black youth, so why would Mott make sure to include “all of us” in the sentence that closes the scene and chapter?
  20. In the novel’s closing lines, the author tells The Kid that “learning to love yourself” in the face of structural racism is “a goddamn miracle.” Is this the love story the author asks us to remember?