The young narrator, Shed is a bisexual half Indian boy who lives Out-In-The-Shed (hence his name) of a whorehouse owned by Ida Richilieu in Excellent, a very small town in Idaho at the beginning of the twentieth century. Out in the shed he is much in demand as he provides relief for many male customers while he earns his keep doing chores for Ida. There are many uncertainties about Shed's origins and parents, se he sets off to find his true self, and his real name. On his way he meets Dellwood Barker and makes eventually contact with some Indians; he thinks he finds some answers, but there is more to come. When Shed returns to Excellent all goes well for a time back at Ida Richilieu's Indian Head Hotel, with Ida, Shed, Dellwood and Alma Hatch forming their own unique family, strength against the troublesome Mormons who are taking over the town, until disaster strikes and everything falls apart.
There are plenty of interesting and idiosyncratic characters populating the tale, and the colourful story moves from drama to tragedy, from harrowing events to very tender moments, all with plenty of humour. However the real pleasure is to be found in the narration itself, Shed's way of expressing himself is delightful: "what my ears heard was me yelling the loudest I'd heard my mouth yell . . .", "I just let my feet and legs go . . .they took me out into the clearing . . ." are typical of Shed's logical thinking, and his endearing way of expressing himself.
It is a very beautiful story, and very moving. Shed is an appealing character who loved those close to him, and especially Dellwood, the only man he ever truly loved. It is a story about prejudice and dreams, about survival against adversity. The final pages are particularly heart rending as everything about Shed's life disintegrates; yet there is also hope and a future.