Posted in coming of age, Patrick M. Garry on August 16, 2009

bombshelterAuthor – Patrick M. Garry
Inkwater Press
978-1592993451, April 2008

Life was a simpler then

4 out of 5 stars

Patrick Garry has a J.D. and a Ph.D. in Constitutional History from the University of Minnesota.  Before joining the faculty at The University of South Dakota School of Law, he was a partner and shareholder with the third largest law firm in Minneapolis.  He has written several other novels including “In the Shadow of War”, “Saving Faith”, “Contagion” and “A Bridge Back”.  “A Bomb Shelter Romance” won first place in the Jack Eadon Award for the Best Book in Contemporary Drama in Reader Views annual Literary Awards.

“A Bomb Shelter Romance” takes place in 1970 in the small town of Pinestock, much like many small towns you might have seen growing up at that time.  Eighteen year old Ben O’Neill has just graduated from high school and is stuck in this small town with his crazy Catholic family.  Joan, his mother, is your typical Catholic mother, fretting about all of her children especially Jack who is in Vietnam; Grace, her oldest daughter that is living in a hippie commune in San Francisco and Jennifer who wants to drop out of college to support a communist boyfriend.  However, despite worrying about those, she finds plenty of time to rope the rest of her children into helping finish building a bomb shelter for the town.

Besides working on the bomb shelter, Ben helps run a movie theater owned by Brad, a blind resident of the town.  Along with running the theater, Ben reads books to Brad and in return he teaches Ben about life and women.  This is very helpful as he meets Suzanne, the daughter of the femme fatale of the town.

There are many other characters that make up this town and I could describe them all, but let’s just say that they are very interesting characters and round out the book and the storyline quite well.

To me, this novel was a “coming of age” story for Ben.  He has graduated from high school but doesn’t know what life holds for him yet.  He could have been drafted into the military since this was the height of the Vietnam War, but he wasn’t so he is able to spend his summer working and wondering if he will find romance.  He is very interested in Suzanne but isn’t sure what to say around her so he strikes up a friendship and this progresses to more with a little encouragement from Brad and Suzanne herself.

The author drew me into the story with the interaction of Ben, Suzanne and Brad.  These three set the stage for the rest of the characters such as Joan, Franny, Feldon, Essie and Hank.  I think my favorite part of the story is the epilogue which gives us a taste of what happens after that summer and what the future held for our favorite citizens of Pinestock.  There were parts that really tugged on my heartstrings and I was happy and sad to see how things turned out for these loveable characters.

I definitely recommend this book especially if you grew up in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  The story will remind you of those times and that life was much simpler back then, or at least simpler than it is today!

Reviewed for RebeccasReads (8/09)