Tom, Karl and Baz grew up together in down-on-its-luck Dublin. Friends since childhood, their lives diverged when Tom left home to be a war correspondent. Now, after three years embedded in the Siege of Sarajevo, he returns a haunted shell of the lad who went away.
Karl and Baz have no idea what they’re doing but they are determined to see him through the darkness, even if it means travelling halfway around the world. Hearing about an unlikely cure – an experimental clinic called Restless Souls – they embark on a road trip across California.
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 boisterous teenage souls became weighed down, and why life got so damn complicated and sad.
It has been three years since Tom left his home and family behind to be a war correspondent in the Seige of Sarajevo. Now, his two best friends, Karl and Baz stand by the arrivals gate in Dublin awaiting his return. But their old friend is a shell, a man no longer the boy from their teenage years who laughed with them, joked with them and helped them through their troubles. Desperate for a way to scale the heights of his suffering and help him through it, Karl forms a plan of action. He and Baz will take him to a special clinic in California, a place overlooking the sea, quiet and peaceful, somewhere to ease his restless soul and heal his hidden wounds. It’s a long way. A vexing journey that will be rough on them all but what other choice do they have? Leave him be and watch him deteriorate? Abandon him to his memories and nightmares? As they leave behind their beloved Ireland for the promise of hope, of help for their old friend, the ties forged in their youth will be stretched and paths questioned. But if they are to help Tom, their pilgrimage must continue to the place called Restless Souls.
This book is told from both Karl and Tom’s points of view. And both were equally affecting but for different reasons. Tom is in the middle of the Sarajevo Seige, a place where blood, ash and flying shrapnel arc through the air, where birdsong has been replaced by the peal of screams and fighting and people who scurry for safety are felled within seconds. Having left home to be a war correspondent and who now toils to help the victims of this onslaught, the horror Tom witnesses is almost impossible to comprehend.
Karl sees his brother’s ghost everywhere, plagued by his death and the guilt of not having done more to prevent it. He is suffering in another way entirely, thoughts and memories of his closest friend and confidant constantly needling their way into his days. It is a slow torture and nothing can remedy it.
Populated with a troop of witty, utterly wonderful characters, Restless Souls conjures a sense of hope and emboldens the reader with every turn of the page. It seeps into your heart and vows to leave you feeling somehow changed come the end, as only the truly special books do. There is a lot of sadness in this book – Tom’s chapters were especially difficult to read – but running alongside all of this is a wise, funny and joyous tale of friendship. And just as it spears your heart with its tragedies, it lifts you with its humour, its love and its honesty.
I loved Restless Souls. I loved the characters and I loved the writing! It is such a wise and touching novel! Fully recommend!
Heartrending. Poignant. Touching.
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About Dan Sheehan:
Dan Sheehan received his MFA from University College Dublin. His writing has appeared in the Irish Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, TriQuarterly, Words Without Borders, BOMB, and Electric Literature, among others. He currently works as an editor at Literary Hub and lives with his wife Tea Obreht in New York. Restless Souls is his first novel.@danpjsheehan
Huge thanks to Jennifer Kerslake for my review copy!