Unplugged - Book Review


Author: Joe Barrett
Narrated by: Steve Quinn
Genre: Fiction - Humor
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: May 7, 2020
ISBN-10: 1684334926
ISBN-13: 9781684334926

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Narrated by: Steve Quinn

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Book Review of :  Unplugged


Unplugged by Joe Barrett is another one of his farcical novels that tells the story of a man, Dan Johnson,  who appeared to have everything anyone could ever want. He was a success in the business world, had a beautiful woman wanting to marry him and tons of money. He had it all, yet life still felt unsatisfying to him. His immense fortune didn’t make him want to live lavishly or to venture further as an entrepreneur to become even wealthier; instead, it made him want to unplug from a digital society, and even his clinging girlfriend, Clancy.

Lies and Dan’s real-life collide. He has been trying to perfect avoidance, retreating from society, but a mysterious series of events lead him into absurd actions. As he deals with relationships and a world he didn’t know existed, he learns to reconnect and find peace with himself and meaning. You can have a seemingly perfect life yet still feel desperately empty.

Unplugged is a laugh-out-loud, hilarious yet unexpectedly thought-provoking novel. The protagonist, Dan Johnson, indulges in masquerading as his brother, Bill.  Through his experiences as Bill,  he discovers a whole new world that he finds exciting and much more fulfilling than his previous existence.

Dan tells his story in spurts. “I’m off on a tangent. From my last digression.” Told in conversational dialogue with thoughtful responses, and often in dialect, Dan takes the reader to meet his unconventional but believable friends. There is his brother, Bill, who escapes from reality by spreading tall tales, and a tall thin man wearing lime green spandex and a shabby Stetson while walking at least six dogs.

When he decides to downscale his life, his associates and friends think he’s crazy. Interestingly, Barrett’s story is partially mirrored by a real and similarly young successful entrepreneur, Elon Musk. He is also downsizing. Musk is selling his million-dollar homes and other belongings and moving into an apartment. Many wonder why he would do this, and some would cast him into the same category as the protagonist, Dan Johnson.   Even the reaction of the fictional girlfriend of Dan Johnson mirrors the response of the real girlfriend of Elon Musk when they both are informed of their lover’s decision to downsize. They were angry!  A case of reality mimicking fiction or fiction mirroring reality?

Barrett is an author who writes social commentary about society’s ills that he cloaks in comedic narratives. In this novel, he zeros in on the plight of homelessness. However, he doesn’t just dwell on that one problem, but he addresses many ills that exist in our fickle universe. Comic fiction is a more palatable way to broach the problems that we face daily – whether it is hunger, illness, poverty, drug addiction, or homelessness. 

The book is packed with witty narratives and zany characters. Dan Johnson has a voluptuous and beautiful girlfriend who has a penchant to coyly expose her body to strangers. She is ready to get married, but he has reservations about a long-term commitment to her.  And then there is Sarah, another love interest, and the homeless kids who call him a pedophile. Barrett introduces The O’Shaughnessy gang of society dropouts who help Dan learn more about the value of life.

Joe Barrett is an author to follow. His previous novel, Managed Care, a 2019 Pen Craft Award-winning novel that poked fun at and exposed the many problems with the health care system, is a must-read. Expect more literary humor and contemporary satire from this talented, imaginative author who uses comedic relief to address the ills of our contemporary society. Unplugged is a refreshing allegorical satirical novel full of crazy mind-boggling scenarios that illuminate how odd life really is.

Reviewed by: Carole W

About Joe Barrett


Award-winning author Joe Barrett has spent the past twenty-five years as a chief executive of entrepreneurial organizations ranging from private, venture-funded companies to large publicly-listed multinational corporations. He has been a frequent speaker at National Retail Federation conferences and has sat on the boards of several for-profit and non-profit companies. His short fiction has been published in Iconoclast, The Storyteller, and The Palo Alto Review. He lives with his wife and two children in New Jersey.

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