A historical fiction novel set in colonial Belgian Congo during World War II, The Institute: A Work of Fiction centers around Mary Elkhorn, an American agriculturist who travels to a farming institute located on the Congo River. En route, Mary is recruited by American Foreign Services to work as a "cutout," an American spy, in order to keep tabs on the Belgian civilians who run the institute. Mystery surrounding a mysterious soft ore hangs over the entire colony, where the world’s most potent uranium is mined. Her role as unwitting American spy forces her to ask questions and look below the surface of life in colonial Africa. While Mary believes her career aspirations can be reached by undertaking this migration, she will quickly discover that cultural limitations follow her to Africa. Beyond her personal struggles for autonomy in an androcentric generation, Mary is forced to reckon with witnessing human rights’ violations and forced imperialism in one of the most turbulent eras in recent history.