Author: Jim Kokoris
Published: St Martins Press December 2015
Status: Read from January 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy (Courtesy the publisher)
“Everyone is waiting for us in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s a long way. We’re going to drive there. Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that crazy? Mom thinks I’m crazy for doing this. I’m starting to think I’m crazy for doing this, and we haven’t even pulled out of the driveway. Isn’t that crazy? Yes, sir, it sure is. Yes, sir.”
John Nichols is driving cross country with his son Ethan to attend his eldest daughter’s wedding. He once dreamed of taking aimlessly to the open road, but this trip requires factoring in Ethan’s restlessness, frequent meltdowns, bathroom breaks and stops for pickles at Cracker Barrel. Born with an extra chromosome resulting in global cognitive delays, Ethan is essentially a nineteen year old toddler and though John fiercely loves his son, he is exhausted by the demands of caring for him.
Little of John’s life has turned out as he expected, at 57 he is an ex-basketballer player, ex-author, ex-philanderer, ex-husband, ex-high-school English teacher’ but now John has an ‘Overall Plan’. Phase I is getting to the wedding on time, Phase II will be a little more complicated.
Jim Kokoris’ fourth novel, It’s. Nice. Outside. is a funny, honest and moving novel about family, love, regret, joy, doubt and hope.
The trip is fraught with emotion, reflection and re-evaluation, beset by crisis when Karen’s wedding is cancelled, contention when youngest daughter Mindy joins them, and chaos when John finally reveals his Overall Plan to his ex-wife. John is convinced he is doing the right thing for his son, for his family and as he admits, for himself, but letting go maybe the thing that tears them all apart.
“I kept thinking that if we stuck together, we would eventually get to where everything was going to be fine. That we were going to make it, all of us. We were going to arrive someplace together and be fine…. A happy ending”
I laughed loudly at Stinky Bear (“a sassy, horny little teddy bear, full of insightful and often…outrageous comments about life, love, and the state of the civilisation.” and was moved by John’s frustrations and angst. Primarily though I felt compassion for the family’s very real struggle to determine what is best for Ethan.
Kokoris’s dialogue is sharp and snappy and the interactions between the various characters ring true. The author’s sense of comedic timing is impeccable, clever and hilarious, though also often dark and acerbic. Well crafted, the pace of the story is great and events unfold naturally.
I was really impressed by It’s.Nice.Outside. for Kokoris’s wit and candor and the insight into a complicated family dynamic.