Matthew is a sixteen-year-old boy living in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 1976. After he loses his two most important male role models, his father and grandfather, his mother uses her inheritance to uproot Matthew and herself to a posh apartment building in Manhattan. Although only three miles away from his boyhood home, “the city” is a completely new and strange world to Matthew.
Matthew soon befriends (and becomes a factotum of sorts to) Lou Reed, who lives with his transgender girlfriend Rachel in the same building. The artistic-shamanic rocker eventually becomes an unorthodox father figure to Matthew, who finds himself head over heels for the mysterious Veronica, a wise-beyond-her-years girl he meets at his new school.
The novel is written from the point of view of Matthew at age eighteen, two years after the story begins, and concludes with an epilogue in the year 2013, three days after Lou Reed’s death, with Matthew in his fifties.