In the American South, a mystery is unfolding: Who was Nathaniel John Smith?
Two young boys hunting in the woods near their home in rural Mississippi discover the body of their neighbor, a reclusive older man named Nathaniel John Smith, who seems to have succumbed to the frigid winter weather. However, there is much more to the man’s tragic end than it first appears. In addition to the mysterious circumstances of his death, he has left detailed instructions in his will for a task to be carried out by the boys’ mother, Joleen.
As a result, Joleen finds herself in possession of the manuscript of a four-part saga, The Last Methuselah, Mr. Smith’s loosely autobiographical book. In it, she begins to uncover the details of her late neighbor’s past, starting in the 1950s with his adolescence, which was composed of—among other things—farming, moonshine, Dixieland jazz, and young love.
From his humble origins in the rural American South, Nathaniel John’s journey takes him through the vibrant nightclubs of New Orleans, the jungles of Vietnam, and the unsavory port cities across Europe, before bringing him right back home, at least temporarily, to southern Mississippi.
The more she learns about him, the more curious Jolene becomes about Mr. Smith, his book, and her sudden significance in his life. As she reads, she begins to realize they share a powerful connection of which she is somehow unaware. Driven by unanswered questions, she patiently begins to unravel the mystery one page at a time.