The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott

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The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott

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Buy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Kate Jones
Reviewed by Kate Jones
Summary: An interesting, debut novel with potential. This book was a bit of a bumpy ride, which at turns made me want to laugh, then shout, at the characters to make better life decisions.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 224 Date: April 2016
Publisher: One
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0992918279

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This is the debut novel for Ted McDermott, who has previously had fiction and non-fiction published in magazines. It focuses on an aspiring young writer, Ed, who falls in love with Taylor, another aspiring writer, on a University writing programme in Montana. There are various strands to the story; primarily, Ed believes he has a tumour in his arm, but is in constant denial of this, refusing to get it checked out. He claims to fall in love with Taylor at the beginning of the book, and the story follows their relationship and the partying lifestyle around them. Drugs also feature heavily in the novel, something which Ed seems to dabble in casually. There is also the issue of Taylor falling pregnant and the idea of her telling stories that may or may not be true. From the start it seems clear that Ed is on a path to destruction.

I felt that, with this novel, McDermott has tried really hard to get across a modern-day character that he perhaps feels represents a young writer and his attitude to love and relationships. I felt that McDermott portrays here a central character in Ed, (is the one syllable away from 'Ted' a co-incidence?) that he feels very close to and that comes across in the vivid descriptive prose of his experience. This however means that the other characters in the story seemed rather underdeveloped. In particular, Ed's girlfriend Taylor is a bit like a cardboard character who simply limps along beside Ed. I realise that the story is told through Ed's eyes, but it still felt that the other characters were simply there to prop up his story. We don't really get any feel for why Taylor keeps up a relationship with Ed, as she seems so opposite to him. It also felt that there were too many periphery, quirky characters thrown into the narrative at times, which were not necessary or, if they were relevant to the story, were undeveloped. I think that perhaps McDermott is trying to build a picture of a group of slightly dysfunctional young people hanging out together, taking drugs and not really having grown-up lives. It is hard to imagine that Ed is supposed to be almost 30 in the novel – I would have guessed, with his characterisation, that he was around 20, as he seems very immature.

Something I found personally not enjoyable in the novel was also the casual way sexual treatment of the women is portrayed. Again, this is perhaps because McDermott really wants us to see the world through Ed's eyes, which, frankly, is a pretty depressing place to be. Maybe this is ultimately why this novel wasn't for me – I found Ed an incredibly unlikeable character without really any redeeming features.

On the positive side, McDermott creates a fast-paced narrative with elements of humour. There are some nice bits of description and ironic comment: The tumour was like the millions of children starving in Africa: too alarming to think about. The setting of Montana is vivid and there's a real feeling of hopelessness that McDermott portrays through some of the small-town scenes. The book is written in a modernist prose which I like, and I think it has potential. Perhaps these characters will resonate with a certain group of readers who are closer to the experience portrayed, as McDermott himself may be. It just wasn't for me.

Further reading: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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Buy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Minor Outsider by Ted McDermott at Amazon.com.

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