Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Jeffrey Luscombe’s debut novel features Josh Moore, who lives with his dysfunctional family in the gritty industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario. At an early age, Josh plans his escape from the oppressive steel-mill culture, and dreams of adventures in far away places, but year after year Josh’s dreams take a backseat while he grows further immersed in the town and society that he abhors.
The novel is a series of well-written short stories, each one a snapshot of a time during Josh Moore’s life. Every story is finely crafted to show the development of each turning point in the protagonist’s life, and illustrates how life can, inch by inch, crush a person’s dreams and the will to fight for what one believes.
Although each story brilliantly captures a mood and paints a vivid picture, it took me a long time to warm to this lead character, about 180 pages. I simply didn’t care about him or his dreams because the author didn’t do enough to make me connect with him. That made for a somewhat dull read, but things changed in the last 40 pages. I began to cheer for Josh, and finally became absorbed in his story.
I’m not a huge fan of coming out stories, but this one I can highly recommend, because I feel it is more about overcoming a lifetime of bad choices to finally savor that sweet wine of triumph. It is about battling one’s culture and past, to find one’s identity. Shirts and Skins is a story that, I feel, everyone can relate to.