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An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines Summary


Here you will find a An Abundance of Katherines summary (John Green's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

An Abundance of Katherines Summary Overview

As a young genius, Colin excelled in languages and was a familiar presence on quiz television shows. He had an uncanny knack for creating anagrams. Despite being intelligent, Colin grapples with depression after his girlfriend, Katherine, breaks up with him upon high school graduation. His anxiety about his future and not fulfilling his potential is apparent. His best friend, Hassan, encourages Colin to go on a road trip that leads them from Chicago to a small Tennessee town. Here they meet Lindsey, a socially smart and friendly girl whose mother runs the sole factory in town. Colin and Hassan are employed by Lindsey's mother, Hollis, to interview the factory workers in order to craft an oral history of the town. At the same time, Colin is privately working on a mathematical project hoping to predict the lifespan and outcome of any romantic relationship, using his past experiences with his 19 ex-girlfriends, all named Katherine, as data points. Colin's last girlfriend, Katherine, was also his first love, and he attempts fruitlessly to rekindle their relationship over the phone. Parallelly, Hassan explores the town, makes friends, and strikes up a relationship with Lindsey's friend, Katrina. An invitation to a wild pig hunt sees Colin participating reluctantly and it is during this hunt that Katrina is discovered being unfaithful. This leads to a brawl, during which Colin and Lindsey find out about Hollis's plans to sell off her land and uncover the secret disposal of unsold tampon strings produced by her factory. In the end, Colin learns that his memory can be flawed, evidenced by his incorrect memory of his relationship with Katherine number three. His mathematical formula also faults as it fails to predict his own relationship with Lindsey. In the end, Colin acknowledges that he is not unique and his future is as uncertain as everyone else's.

chapter 1

An intellectual named Colin Singleton found his love life in ruins on the same day as his high school graduation. Katherine, his girlfriend, had decided to end things. With a heavy heart, Colin spent the following morning in his bathtub, musing about Archimedes' enlightening bath time experience which led to the physicist exclaiming "Eureka!" or "I have found it!". Colin yearned for a similar moment of clarity. Exiting the bathroom, he found his parents in his room, who informed him about Katherine's phone call expressing concern for his well-being. However, Colin's emotional turmoil rendered him sick, and he retreated to the bathroom to vomit. He then spent the next fourteen hours engrossed in his yearbook. He was amused by his classmates' parting message, "Stay cool!", considering he was far from being 'cool'. His attention, however, was captured by Katherine's words of eternal commitment. Colin ended up rearranging the letters of her inscription to create an anagram.

chapter 2

Colin is visited by his friend, Hassan Harbish, who has Lebanese roots, is overweight, and is a not-so-devout Muslim. He often teases Colin, who is half-Jewish, in Arabic, calling him an infidel. Despite being a year older, Hassan has delayed his college start. He jokingly boasts about his enormous size but also shows empathy when Colin shares his woes. Colin laments his unrequited love for Katherine and his longing to achieve something significant. Hassan half-jokingly suggests turning to God, but Colin dismisses it. Colin, a fast learner even from a young age, admits he's a prodigy but fears he'll never be a genius who makes new discoveries. He desires to make a difference. Hassan retorts that Colin's true desire is fame and claims that Colin's complex issue has a straightforward solution.

chapter 3

Hassan suggests a road trip to help Colin overcome his heartache. Initially, Colin's parents object, yet they eventually give in after Colin speaks of his unfulfilled potential. After securing permission from Hassan's parents by promising to find Hassan work, the two friends set off from Chicago's North Side in Colin's vehicle, amusingly dubbed Satan's Hearse. As Colin drives through Indianapolis post-midnight, he ponders about Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose significance lies not in his intellectual prowess, but in the major role he played in instigating World War I. He distracts himself from thoughts of his ex-girlfriends, all nineteen of whom were named Katherine and had dumped him. In his early childhood, Colin showed signs of extraordinary intelligence by reading newspaper headlines at the age of two. A psychologist reassured his parents of his intelligence but warned against setting unrealistic expectations. His father gifted him Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece, which he enjoyed yet failed to understand that he, too, lacked a piece - the ability to see himself from others' perspectives. At Kalman, the prestigious private school he attended where his mother taught French, Colin was often ridiculed. Despite this, he managed to capture the heart of a strikingly beautiful girl in third grade.

chapter 4

During a pit-stop in Kentucky, Hassan changes some graffiti to say, “GOD HATES BAGUETTES,” which makes Colin think of France. This further reminds him of Katherine XIX who he'd often dreamt of travelling to Paris with. As they continue their journey, Hassan's suggestion to stop by the World's Largest Wooden Crucifix is declined by Colin, as crucifixes also bring back memories of Katherine. Despite her being an atheist, Colin reminds Hassan that she hadn't always been one, and once wore a silver crucifix. Hassan joined Kalman High in 10th grade after being homeschooled. It was here that he noticed Colin, a freshman, request permission to leave class due to an eyelash in his eye. This incident became a joke for Hassan, who advised Colin that such jokes weren't well received in high school. This led to their friendship. Despite Hassan's apparent laziness, he matches Colin's wit and has a better understanding of social situations.

chapter 5

The boys, Colin and Hassan, are drawn to an improbable grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in rural Tennessee. The oddity of it is too intriguing for Colin, who was pondering about Franz Ferdinand just hours ago. They end up in the town of Gutshot and visit a flamboyantly pink general store. Here, they meet Lindsey Lee Wells, a petite and unique-looking girl with a "smile that could end wars and cure cancer," who directs tours to the archduke’s resting place. As they follow Lindsey, Colin trips, losing his glasses and hurting his forehead. When Hassan refuses to use his shirt to stop the bleeding due to body insecurities, Lindsey steps in and uses her shirt. She instructs Hassan to maintain the pressure while she gets a first-aid kit. Colin, regaining his sight, utters "Eureka." Lindsey's bra is a vivid purple, reminiscent of Katherine's on the night of their breakup. They had been celebrating graduation, but ended up in an argument back at Colin's home. They fought about Colin's intellectual insecurities and his incessant need for reassurance of Katherine's love. The end of their relationship that night felt like a part of Colin's insides had been ripped out.

chapter 6

Colin has a sudden breakthrough after banging his head. He quickly doodles a graph in a notebook, explaining to Lindsey and Hassan that it represents a formula he's devised to anticipate the trajectory of any relationship. Colin categorizes individuals as either dumpers, who usually initiate breakups, or dumpees. Lindsey finds it amusing when she discovers that Colin has dated nineteen Katherines, as she's only had one boyfriend, who is also named Colin. Colin's first Katherine was a charming girl he met in the third grade. His lack of social grace led to him being tutored away from Kalman by his father's friend, Keith Carter. Carter's daughter found Colin's knowledge of Latin impressive. She engaged him in the "why game", constantly challenging his answers with "why?". Colin was stumped when he couldn't answer why Ovid was born in ancient Rome. Subsequently, the girl, Katherine I, asked Colin to be her boyfriend and sealed the deal with a peck on his cheek.

chapter 7

Lindsey delivers her regular speech at Archduke Ferdinand's gravesite, sharing the tale of how his corpse came to be in Gutshot. Four of her school friends show up, one of them being her muscular boyfriend, Colin, and a gorgeous girl, Katrina. Lindsey’s Colin takes a prank by Colin and Hassan in stride, and they dub him TOC. In the store, they meet Lindsey’s mother, Hollis. Recognizing Colin from a TV quiz, Hollis invites them for dinner. They drive to Hollis's house passing a factory which Lindsey reveals produces tampon strings. Their residence, like the shop and Hollis's vehicle, is a massive pink structure. As dinner is being prepared, Colin works on a relationship duration equation. The meal goes well despite an awkward moment during Hassan’s Arabic prayer. Hollis, the tampon-string factory owner, offers them summer work, implying they’ll live in the house. They agree. Later, Lindsey shares her transformation from being unpopular to cool, and Colin talks about his nerdiness and his ambition to be significant.

chapter 8

Colin envisages a job description involving his unique abilities: anagram mastery, proficiency in eleven languages, and a vast memory bank. Hollis, however, assigns him and Hassan to an oral history project of Gutshot, involving them recording interviews with her employees. Lindsey is to join them, aiding in getting the interviewees to be more forthcoming. Their first interaction is with an elderly man, Starnes. Starnes's house has a distinct smell which takes Colin back to the basement of the last Katherine's house where they watched The Royal Tenenbaums together. Colin desired to kiss her, but strongly believed in the rule of the girl initiating it. Katherine questioned Colin about his other talents besides languages, to which he responded with his anagram skills, using her name as an example. On being prodded further, he confessed to being a good kisser. Interestingly, Colin's first and nineteenth Katherine are the same person, Katherine Carter.

chapter 9

Starnes shares his history and Gutshot's origin, the latter got its name from a unique form of boxing. Colin, looking at Starnes's old photos, decides he wants to leave more than just pictures behind. Returning Lindsey to the store, Colin and Hassan wait for her while she spends time with "the Lyford boy,” or TOC. Hassan convinces Colin not to call Katherine, and when they've waited long enough, Hassan fakes an asthma attack. Lindsey leaves with them, hearing about Hassan's inhaler at home. In the evening, Colin eavesdrops on Hassan, Lindsey, and Hollis's conversation. He learns that Colin's vivid memory results from his interest in everything and persistence. Considering his theory about relationships as his potential original accomplishment, Colin works on his formula. As he does so, Hassan and Lindsey enjoy a game of pool. Later, Lindsey argues with Colin about the importance of fame, stating, “The bigger a deal you are, the worse your life is.” She also believes that Colin should improve his storytelling, incorporating plot, moral, and romance. Colin argues back that his Theorem will include romance. Colin's relationship with Katherine I continued after their breakup since her father tutored him. He wasn't obsessed with her, yet he only dated Katherines after her. Every Katherine ended up breaking up with him. This cycle became monotonous, but it was always painful.

chapter 10

Colin, Hassan, and Lindsey head off to the factory for additional interviews. They've been instructed by Hollis to keep these ones brief. Lindsey, however, departs early on for the store to see TOC. During the subsequent interviews, Hassan takes the reins, allowing Colin time to reflect on his Theorem. Despite Hassan's disapproval, Colin is adamant about reaching out to Katherine XIX. Colin seeks a better phone signal in a nearby open field. Katherine returns his call only to reiterate their breakup. Upon joining Hassan and Lindsey, Colin confesses his regret over the call. His humiliation leads him to tears in the car. Once home, Colin decides his formula is a dead end and asks Lindsey for matches to destroy his work. She requests a bit of time to review his notes before he does so.

chapter 11

Hassan enjoys his fifth night in Gutshot with Lindsey and her friends, after visiting the gravesite. He tells Colin that Katrina is beautiful and kind. Despite Hassan's invitation to join a pig-hunting excursion, Colin has no interest in participating. Colin's father had always believed that a talented child just needs "active, results-oriented parenting" to become a genius. This perspective proved to be flawed. However, Colin's background did prove beneficial when he made an appearance on Hollis's favorite quiz show, KranialKidz. Keith, Colin's tutor, had passed his contact to the show. This quickly made Colin popular at school, and he got a chance to ask Marie, a pretty girl, out on a date. But on the day of the date, Katherine needed assistance with her French test. Colin cancelled his date, citing a family emergency. This led to many more tutoring sessions, marking the transition from Katherine I to Katherine XIX.

chapter 12

Hassan observes that Hollis spends all day Thursday away, tending to the factory and warehouse in Memphis. On the subsequent Thursday, feigning a sinus infection, Hassan stays home while Colin and Lindsey go on an assignment to interview retired factory workers at a local nursing home. During their drive, Lindsey suggests a modification for Colin's theorem, proposing the addition of more variables. Intrigued, Colin develops a complex formula accommodating five variables and featuring a sine function. At the nursing home, the duo receives a warm reception. Everyone there has seen Lindsey grow up. The elderly ladies misinterpret Colin as Lindsey's boyfriend, which Lindsey doesn't deny, leaving Colin confused. However, Lindsey's perplexity escalates when she learns that Hollis is selling land to a woman's son for a housing project. She is unsure why Hollis would do this as they aren't financially strained.

chapter 13

Hassan spends two more days with Lindsey and her group, sealing a kiss with Katrina during a game in Colin's truck. Colin labels Katrina as unintelligent, sparking tension between him and Hassan. Hassan confronts Colin the next day about his continual negativity and obsession with Katherines, causing their friendship to falter. After Colin's inconsiderate name-calling of TOC, the disagreement mellows out. Colin then takes up TOC's invitation to a pig hunt. Later, Lindsey teaches Colin to handle a shotgun while Hassan and Katrina enjoy their date. Lindsey also shares her secret spot in the Hollis-owned forest they're in. In the past, Katherine I turned into Katherine XIX just as Colin's fame in KranialKidz took off. Katherine cryptically confessed her feelings to Colin in a French café using a numeric code that said, "I think I aimer you," where 'aimer' could mean either 'love' or 'like.'

chapter 14

When evening descends, Lindsey and Colin find themselves in a secluded cave in the woods, a place Lindsey has never shown anyone else. As they share some moonshine, Lindsey opens up about her past experiences with TOC, recounting how he and others used to ridicule her. To cope, she aimed to become his girlfriend, and now enjoys his kindness and defense. Lindsey shares her unique problem of having no permanent personality. She adapts to the people around her - a southern belle with the nursing home residents, a math enthusiast with Colin, and a cheerful princess with her boyfriend. But, in reality, she feels empty. Contrarily, Colin disagrees about Lindsey acting differently around him. He speculates his nerdy persona allows her to feel secure. They nearly share a kiss, but the discomfort makes them hold back. As they make their way back home, they unintentionally overhear Hollis's conversation with a man named Roy about disposing some mysterious substances. The standard garbage collection method proved too expensive, leading Hollis to suggest burying the substances in "that field back there". Intrigued, Lindsey proposes a road trip to Colin to learn more about this mysterious phone call.

chapter 15

Early in the morning, Colin and Hassan join the pig-hunting team led by Mr. Lyford, the father of TOC. After a brief about feral pigs and shotgun usage, they split up. Colin and Hassan, unable to keep up with Mr. Lyford, take a breather. During this break, Colin contemplates about Katherine III from his fourth grade. He believes his relationship formula to be incorrect as it suggests they'd have separated. To confirm, Hassan proposes calling her. On doing so, Colin finds that his memory had deceived him and they did split up, proving his formula accurate. The tranquility is broken by the sight of a wild hog. Colin shoots, purposefully missing the hog but hitting a hornet's nest instead. They dash from the swarming hornets, getting stung a few times but eventually finding their way out of the woods. Their exit point is near Archduke Franz Ferdinand's grave where they shockingly spot Hassan's new girlfriend, Katrina, being intimate with another man in broad daylight.

chapter 16

Katrina's lover turns out to be TOC. When Colin and Hassan find out, they're warned to keep quiet. Nevertheless, Colin uses a minirecorder to capture their conversation. Lindsey shows up with TOC's friends, JATT and SOCT, who Colin and Hassan have nicknamed. They all gather around a grave memorial to unwind with some beers. The atmosphere is laid-back until TOC teases Colin about his hornet stings. Colin retaliates by playing back their recorded chat, which angers Lindsey and causes her to storm off. TOC attempts to console her, sparking a lengthy brawl. Even JATT and SOCT join in, fed up with TOC's infidelity towards Lindsey. Despite the odds, TOC proves to be a formidable opponent. Colin is sidelined after a low blow from TOC. When he comes to, TOC has disappeared and Lindsey is tending to Hassan's injuries. She dubbs Colin her knight in shining armor.

chapter 17

Feeling sore from the previous day, Colin and Hassan are given a task by Hollis to visit Mabel, an elderly woman in an old age home. Despite not being thrilled at the prospect, Lindsey tags along after Colin suggests that Mabel could do with some cheerful company. The visit is disheartening, with Mabel sometimes forgetting who she's talking to. Nevertheless, she fondly recollects an old memory of Lindsey’s great-grandfather, Dr. Dinzanfar. She gently urges Lindsey to come again soon. Overwhelmed by the interaction, Lindsey breaks down in tears and locks herself in a bathroom. As evening rolls in, Colin fine-tunes his relationship formula, which now accurately anticipates all his past connections with the Katherines, including Katherine III. Hassan shares in Colin's jubilation. Lindsey then queries about her and TOC's relationship as predicted by the formula. Colin explains that according to the formula, being unfaithful is equal to breaking up, and affirms that TOC ended their relationship. Lindsey expresses relief and firmly states her disinterest in dating "assholes" or muscular types.

chapter 18

Lindsey, Colin, and Hassan journey to the Memphis warehouse, curious about Hollis's secretive late-night call. They stumble upon Roy and his team burying boxes in a nearby field, tampon strings spilling out from a ruptured box. Hollis reveals she's been struggling to compete with overseas rivals and has a surplus of unsold product. She's chosen to sustain production and discretely get rid of the surplus, rather than laying off workers. She estimates she can maintain this for five years, using the funds from the land sale, and will use this period to explore alternative revenue streams. The boys' recorded oral histories will serve as a testament to the factory's glory days for future generations. Lindsey departs with Hollis. On the return journey, Hassan commends Hollis's actions and resolves to be less idle, announcing he's already enrolled in two college courses for the upcoming fall and considering adding a third.

chapter 19

When Colin and Hassan return home, they find Lindsey's gone, supposedly to a friend's. Colin knows she's at her cave and goes to her. They discuss their experiences. Lindsey understands that being liked for her coolness can't compete with genuine care for others, like Hollis has. Colin discovers that the void left by a Katherine post-breakup won't be filled by getting back with her, another girl, or even a new theorem. In their quiet shared moment, Colin reveals that the man buried near the shop is Lindsey's great-grandfather, Fred N. Dinzanfar, an anagram of Franz Ferdinand. Lindsey validates this. Colin confesses he was the one who ended things with Katherine III, contrary to his perception of always being the dumpee. Lindsey asks him to recount his history with all nineteen Katherines. By the time he finishes, he feels the wound in his heart starting to mend. Admitting they have feelings for each other, Colin and Lindsey share a kiss in the driveway and sneak back into the house.


The following day, Lindsey pays a visit to Mabel. Colin's mathematical model suggests Lindsey will end their relationship in a matter of days. When the predicted day arrives, Lindsey pens a breakup note but adds, “P.S. Just kidding.” They remain a couple. Colin makes a final effort to correct his formula, but overhearing Lindsey and Hassan in a game of poker, he acknowledges that his formula is inherently flawed. While it can account for past events, it can't foresee the future, much like a formula wouldn't be able to anticipate the outcome of a poker game. The formula is comparable to a story, a tool we use to make sense of our past and find a bit of significance in the vast expanse of time. The future is an enigma that defies our attempts at understanding it. When it's time for lunch, the three friends climb into Colin's car. They decide to forgo their regular burger joint and take to the highway, intending to “just keep driving for a while.” Colin is gradually becoming comfortable with his lack of uniqueness. His future, just like everyone else's, is filled with endless possibilities.

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