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Detailed Book Review
A Collection of Friends         
A Collection of Friends
By Thomas Sheehan
ISBN: 978-1-929763-17-7
Price: $17.95
Shipping: $4.00
Nominated for the PEN-Martha Albrand Award

A Collection of Friends by Saugus, Massachusetts author Tom Sheehan is a unique memoir. It is a collection of nostalgia, reflections, and impressions that give loving tribute to family members and others that have passed through the life of this grateful author. Through these stories, Sheehan illuminates his own time on earth from his Depression-era childhood to his journey into manhood. In between, Sheehan describes, with astonishing clarity, his deep and abiding respect for his grandfather Johnny Igoe who instilled in him the writing muse, the sacrifices made by those in uniform, and memories of his beloved hometown of Saugus.

Tom Sheehan, a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of the novels Vigilantes East, Death for the Phantom Receiver, and An Accountable Death. His poetic works include Ah, Devon Unbowed, The Saugus Book, This Rare Earth & Other Flights, Reflections from Vinegar Hill, and The Westering.

A Collection of Friends is also available as an ebook on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

Book Review Details:
Reviewed Appeared In: Midwest Book Review
Reviewed By: Laurel Johnson
Text Of Review:

According to one critic, Tom Sheehan is a "national treasure." After reading A Collection of Friends, I agree. This book is also a treasure. Sheehan writes with a kindly intimacy that welcomes readers into his life. His words are rich with cadence and imagery as he remembers the sounds, sights, scents, and ghostly voices from his years in Saugus, Massachusetts. Several stories from his book were nominated for Pushcart Prizes and many more of them deserved to be.

In the Preface, Sheehan says of his friends: "Piecemeal, as entities, in my ear, clapping me on the back, giving me a push when needed, they have caused this book. I am indebted to them, those who have given my life all its savage joys."

From a lovingly tended larder of memories, the author spins camera-clear stories of family, friends, war, town drunks, places and pleasures, long held sorrows. Each is a moving testimony to man's grit and pride or quiet acceptance of adversity. Everything, everyplace, and everyone become objects in Tom Sheehan's social laboratory. His experiences as a lad made him what he is today as writer in his seventh decade. He tells of hunger as if it were a living entity, and the "awful sense of exposure" borne of poverty. Sensory perceptions were absorbed in his youth like a sponge. Tragedies forgotten over time still live fresh in his mind and won't let go.

Each story stands alone and is memorable in distinct ways. I give only a few examples due to space limitations "The Dumpmaster's Boy" is one of several paeans to Sheehan's grandfather, who loved his fellow man, quoted Irish poets, wrote his own lyrical poetry, and longed to see his homeland Ireland one more time.

"Orion's Belt" is an unintended social commentary, a lesson in grace, strength, poverty, and snobbish cruelty with Sheehan's beautiful, dignified mother shining as a central figure.

"The Day Titanic Drowned", the memory of a powerful draft animal that drowned decades ago, is a standout. The day and the animal come alive through Sheehan's telling.

"Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk" is a numbing account of desert survival circa WW 2, how one man escaped death in war only to die by inches for decades after his return to Saugus.

And "The Quiet, Empty Bedrooms of Saugus" was so beautifully written, so emotionally overwhelming that it must be read to fully comprehend. Any words I write here are inadequate.

Tom Sheehan treasures his memories. To quote the author, "The clarity stings the memory.... Somehow, inexplicably, it is soul deep, has pine aromas, the acrobatics of light, known temperature touching my face the way I recall the stand on a lone Korean outpost."

I've never been to Massachusetts, know nothing of Saugus or Tom Sheehan, but feel I know them well through A Collection of Friends.

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