A shy, bookish scholarship student from a working-class family, Owen Whiting has high hopes of what awaits him at Oxford, only to find himself adrift and out of place among the university’s dim aristocrats and posh radicals. But his life takes a dramatic turn when he is assigned to the same philosophy tutorial as Zachary Foedern, a visiting student from New York City. Rich, brilliant, and charismatic, Zach takes Owen under his wing, introducing him to a world of experiences Owen has only ever read about.
From the quadrangles of Oxford to the seedy underbelly of Berlin, they practice what Zach preaches, daring each other to transgress the boundaries of convention and morality, until Zach proposes the greatest transgression of all: a suicide pact. But when Zach’s plans go horribly awry, Owen is left to pick up the pieces in the sleek lofts and dingy dives of lower Manhattan. Now he must navigate the treacherous boundary between illusion and reality if he wants to understand his friend and preserve a hold on his once bright future.
Ryan Ruby was born in Los Angeles in 1983. He has written for The Baffler, Conjunctions, Lapham’s Quarterly, n+1, and the Paris Review Daily among other publications, and has translated two novellas from the French for Readux Books. He lives in Berlin.