Review: Coop by Jack Teeter
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Coop by Jack Teeter
Swimming Kangaroo Books 2007
Ebook, 170 pages
Jack Teeter's Coop is the story of a blackballed baseball coach making a comeback seventeen years after a car crash robbed him of his voice--and his livelihood. Matt "Coop" Cooper, a staunch supporter of desegregation at his Georgia high school, was harassed by the Ku Klux Klan after replacing a white player with a black one on the school baseball team.
When the story begins, former maths teacher Coop is stacking pallets. His grandson, who's on a school visit, comes to find him, and is astonished to discover Coop can speak. He recovered his voice unexpectedly, and hadn't told anyone, but chatting to the boy is impossible to resist. Their conversation sets Coop on the road to recovery, opening up the opportunity to be reconciled with his daughter and her draft-dodger husband, and to coach baseball again.
The story starts solidly, with some excellent writing, and it's thoughtful and engaging. Unfortunately, the narrative can't keep this up. The detailed descriptions of baseball practice are off-putting to someone unfamiliar with the game, but the story takes its worst downhill turn when it drops first person narration and changes to third. There are detailed descriptions of events and conversations Coop didn't witness--and they're not even that germane to the story. It's hard not to feel that a better way of telling this story couldn't have been found.
As the story continues, it begins to feel as if Coop's fate has been taken out of his hands--actions initiated by others are driving the story, not him. It's a shame, as Teeter has amply demonstrated that he can write, and write well enough to draw a non-baseball fan into a shamelessly baseball-oriented story. Coop's voice in the narrative is strong, and brings him to life immediately. It's the plotting that lets this down.
That said, if you have an interest in baseball, or in the story of a right-minded man standing up against injustice, this story is well written enough to be enjoyed.
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