Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan

The Blurb On The Back:

After three years embedded in the Siege of Sarajevo, war correspondent Tom returns to Dublin a haunted shell of his former self.  His childhood friends Karl and Baz know they’re laughably unqualified to help him, but are determined to see him through the darkness.  Together, they embark on a journey for an unlikely cure, to an experimental Californian clinic called Restless Souls.

But as they try to save Tom from his memories, they must confront their own – of what happened to their childhood friend Gabriel.  And in doing so, they must ask how their raucously funny teenage souls became weighed down – and why life got so damn complicated and sad.  

You can order RESTLESS SOULS by Dan Sheehan from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 1996.  Karl and Baz are waiting at Dublin airport for their friend, Tom, who has suffered a breakdown after spending 3 years in Sarajevo during the bloody siege that saw thousands die and others forced to try and live their lives under sniper fire and mortar attack.  The three of them were teenage friends, together with Gabriel (Karl’s foster brother who committed suicide).  Gabriel’s suicide haunts Karl so when he learns that Tom is still badly traumatised by his experiences, he looks for something that can help him and discovers the Restless Souls clinic in California, which claims to be able to treat PTSD and so the three engage on a road trip to California that will reveal Tom’s experiences and the secrets that both Baz and Karl are hiding …

Dan Sheehan’s debut literary novel is an uneasy mix of road trip adventure, Irish comedy and war diary that features some strong and at times hilarious dialogue and some moving individual scenes on male friendship but Tom’s reasons for going to Sarajevo are thin and the suicide little more than a plot point while it’s unfortunate that the female characters are literally girlfriends and mothers.

The main reason to read this book is the dialogue, which crackles with wit as Baz and Karl squabble and bait each other during the road trip, each worried about Tom and his prognosis and their own secrets.  I also enjoyed the split narration between Karl’s first person voice and Tom’s diary entries but I never really bought into Tom’s reasons for being in Sarajevo (which are ostensibly down to him wanting to be a war correspondent but really seem to boil down to war tourism (as his girlfriend, Jelena alludes to)).

There are some moving scenes, particularly those between Karl and Baz during an encounter with some Californian drop outs, Karl’s conversations with Gabriel and the scenes between Tom and Jelena’s family.  However – and perhaps inevitably given the subject – the female characters are underwritten and pretty much limited to being mothers and girlfriends (with Tom’s mother being the strongest) and the ending was quite weak (not least because there’s some weird exposition scenes about the experimental treatment that I didn’t think really added much).

Ultimately, although I don’t think the different elements of this book really gelled together there’s enough promise here to ensure that I will definitely check out Sheehan’s next novel.

RESTLESS SOULS will be released in the United Kingdom on 8th February 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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