Review: Outside In, by Doug Cooper

About the book, Outside In

Outside In

Hardcover: 253 pages

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press (August 13, 2013)

From Memorial Day until the student workers and tourists leave in the fall, the island community of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, thrives on alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and any other means of forgetting responsibilities. To Brad Shepherd–recently forced out of his job as a junior high math teacher after the overdose death of a student–it’s exactly the kind of place he’s looking for.

Allured by the comfort and acceptance of the hedonistic atmosphere, Brad trades his academic responsibilities and sense of obligation for a bouncer’s flashlight and a pursuit of the endless summer. With Cinch Stevens, his new best friend and local drug dealer, at his side, Brad becomes lost in a haze of excess and instant gratification filled with romantic conquests, late-night excursions to special island hideaways, and a growing drug habit. Not even the hope from a blossoming relationship with Astrid, a bold and radiant Norwegian waitress, nor the mentoring from a mysterious mandolin player named Caldwell is enough to pull him out of his downward spiral. But as Labor Day approaches, the grim reality of his empty quest consumes him. With nowhere left to run or hide, Brad must accept that identity cannot be found or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.

A look at one man’s belated coming of age that’s equally funny, earnest, romantic, and lamenting, Doug Cooper’s debut novel explores the modern search for responsibility and identity, showing through the eyes of Brad Shepherd how sometimes, we can only come to understand who we truly are by becoming the person we’re not.

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About the author, Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper

Doug Cooper has traveled to more than twenty countries on five continents and has held jobs in service, teaching, and business. He now lives and writes in Las Vegas. Outside In is his first novel.

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My Thoughts

I’ve said before that first person novels tend to be tricky. Many try them, most fail. Doug Cooper, however, makes writing in first person seem effortless, and as a result, when I read Outside In, which, by the way, I LOVED, I felt like I really was seeing things unfold through the eyes of a real person.

For me, even if I’m enjoying a plot or really like a character, it’s the details that make a story really sing, so scenes like the trip on the ferry, and later, the first glimpse we get of the Round House, really gave me a sense of place, but also made everything else seem vivid.

As someone who is on the far side of 40, I always find it interesting when authors recognize that “coming of age” stories aren’t limited to people who are 18-21 years old, but can happen when you’re 25, 35, or even in your sixties. Doug Cooper’s main character is a teacher who is about to finish grad school, but that doesn’t make this any less a coming-of-age tale.

With nuance and a great sense of both language and place, Doug Cooper kept my attention from wandering for the entire length of Outside In (a line about humid air feeling ‘like jelly on my skin’ really struck me) and at the end, I was sad to bid goodbye to Brad and Haley and the rest of the “cast.”

If you’re not certain that this book is for you, let me assure you: IT IS.

Goes well with A really good burger with crinkle-cut fries, and a cold beer, preferably from a joint that caters to summer tourists.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click here.