Apex Hides the Hurt is a 2006 novel by American author Colson Whitehead. The novel follows an unnamed nomenclature consultant who is asked to visit the town of Winthrop, which, rather conveniently for the nomenclature consultant, is considering changing its name. During his visit, the main character is introduced to several citizens attempting to persuade him in favor of their preferred name for the town.
The book is set in the fictional town of Winthrop. The protagonist of the book is an unnamed African-American “nomenclature consultant” who has had recent success in branding and selling Apex bandages, which come in multiple colors to better match a broad array of skin tones. The novel begins with the main character being contacted by his former employer, which he had left after losing a toe. He travels to the town of Winthrop after requests from the town council, which has proposed that the town be renamed. However, three key citizens disagree what the name should be: Albie Winthrop, descendant of the town’s namesake (who’d made his fortune in barbed wire); Regina Goode, the mayor (descendant of one of the town’s two founders); and Lucky Aberdeen, a software magnate who’s leading the drive to rename the town. Winthrop wants to keep the name; Goode wants the town to revert to the name it bore at its founding as a town of free blacks, Freedom; while Aberdeen wants to call it “New Prospera”.
As the consultant talks with the residents of the town and investigates its history, the backstory of his injury is gradually revealed. After repeatedly stubbing his toe and covering it up with Apex bandages, the consultant accidentally stepped into pig feces during a company team retreat. Because of the colored bandage, he never discovered how his toe was badly infected, and fainted on the sidewalk after fleeing from an awards party. This led to the amputation of his toe, his departure from the nomenclature firm, and the beginning of his hermetic lifestyle.
After much deliberation, the consultant decides on the name “Struggle”, the original idea of the other of the two original founders, Field. Following this, the consultant promptly returns home, where his foot injury continues to bother him even more than before.