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In Shining Man, narrator Cash, an over-educated but under-achieving fry cook, decamps from a long period of floundering in suburban Charlotte, NC, to either find his vanished father in Chicago or settle his affairs, whichever comes first. The mission ultimately throws his own life into stark relief. The book explodes themes of economic opportunity, identity and the individual’s place post-Great Recession in a politically polarized, culturally isolated, and class-stratified America—all through the eyes and voice of a young Southerner whose compatriots include both left-wing demonstrators and race car crew members.