Three friends reunite in 1990s Dublin when one returns from a stint reporting on the Bosnian War, an experience that has left him grappling with PTSD and sends the trio on an overseas journey for a cure to an experimental clinic on the California coast.
Dan Sheehan’s debut novel is ambitious, rambunctious and extremely accomplished. Ambitious, in so far as it addresses daunting and complex issues; rambunctious, in its wild, road-trippy exuberance; and accomplished because it combines these elements with style, wit and compassion. At a time when contemporary fiction is being dominated more and more by arid and self-indulgent experimentalism, it’s refreshing to discover a writer who is holding true to the solid virtues of story, character and voice ... the writer has an acute sense of local colour ... time-shifting and dual narrative can be confusing for the reader but here the effects are seamlessly interwoven. The prose style, full of vibrant wise-cracking energy, can turn on a dime into a controlled lyricism befitting serious subjects such as PTSD, mental health and the nature of masculinity, toxic or otherwise ... Too many recent novels have wallowed in nostalgie de la boue without recourse to our better angels. Restless Souls is an honourable exception, and all the more welcome for it.
Sheehan deals deftly with these sensitive subjects, tempering his prose with a darkly comic streak that never feels misjudged. As a study in how young men process and express their grief, Restless Souls is a highly promising debut.
This Irish debut describes Tom, Karl and Mal, three Dubliners in their 20s, struggling to come to terms with the suicide of their childhood friend, Gabriel ... Sheehan runs into difficulties portraying the generation preceding his own. Karl remarks on the junkies on the Liffey boardwalk, although the boardwalk wasn’t built until 2000 ... But beneath the anachronisms beats a good heart ... In his rendering of the bonds of male friendship, the novel stands on firm ground. He evokes the boys’ confusion, their tenderness, their fear. But also their hope that they can save their damaged friend and, in so doing, rescue themselves from the guilt that has haunted them since the first of their number took his life, a message that transcends generations.