Review: Keeping Cooper (2011)
Relationships are complicated things and seldom do they run a completely smooth course. Some couples can work through them, others decide it is best to part and go their separate ways. In Samantha Masone’s Keeping Cooper we have a relationship between two young people that begins well but quickly deteriorates due to jealousy and soon afterwards violence.
Casey is young and popular though her past has been a difficult one. Her mum was victim to a string of bad relationships and Casey ended up being raised primarily by her grandmother after her mum’s death. Casey is single at the outset but returning to town is the handsome Johnnie who has hearts fluttering everywhere he goes and those lucky enough to get his attention do not hold back in declaring his formidable sexual prowess. Johnnie soon turns his focus to Casey but rather than being eager to get her into bed he is patient and tender, wanting a committed and long-term relationship rather than just another one night stand. Casey and Johnnie get together and all goes well to begin with until the real Johnnie comes to the fore.
Samantha Masone’s book has a very intriguing blurb but I didn’t find the book necessarily reflected that synopsis completely. From the blurb we know that Casey had problems with Johnnie and that him wrecking her favourite pair of shoes was the last straw. Although this incident is covered it doesn’t seem as important as the synopsis suggests. We also know that Johnnie is dead and that Casey killed him so does Masone give everything away before we’ve even begun? Thankfully, the answer is no and the story remains engaging throughout, moving at a fast pace as Casey’s relationship with Johnnie begins to fall apart. Sexually demanding, Johnnie sees any rebuffed advances as evidence that Casey must be sleeping around and he even beats up a customer she is serving in one instance and Casey loses her job as a result. Johnnie’s jealousy soon turns to violence and Casey is left with no choice but to flee, only she isn’t travelling alone.
The book’s title Keeping Cooper refers to Casey’s son, Cooper, who is born when Casey is finally free of Johnnie and starting a new life far away from him. Casey’s grandmother is instrumental in her escape and she soon settles into her new life with Cooper, making friends and working for an ex-boyfriend of her grandmother’s. In Sleeping with the Enemy fashion we know that Johnnie will eventually find Casey and when he does he goes to some very desperate lengths to win back the girl he loves. He sees Cooper as evidence that Casey has not only been seeing other men but she has started a family with one of them. This does not go down well with Johnnie.
Masone’s book is a quick and straightforward read but it manages to cram a lot into its 300 or so pages. There are some uncomfortable moments of domestic abuse but certainly not to the extent that I think readers would feel alienated. Knowing that Johnnie is dead at the outset may have taken some element of surprise away but it also gives the reader something to look forward to as well. The ending is quite shocking in some ways but feels somewhat apt at the same time. It ties in better with the book blurb than the rest of the narrative seems to do.
Keeping Cooper is not an original story. I’ve seen this sort of scenario in films before but it is still a decent read. Johnnie is a vile character and you will treasure the moment he is finally ended. The novel remains an effective cat and mouse chase in its second half and the ending takes a strangely dark turn which is better than a standard happily ever after Hollywood conclusion.
(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)