Laurel Johnson Reviews Tom Sheehan’s New Book,

          Brief Cases, Short Spans


Tom Sheehan’s publishers eagerly await each new manuscript. Some journal editors enthusiastically publish any new Sheehan poem or short story sight unseen because they know anything he writes will be exceptional. These editors and publishers describe Sheehan’s work in glowing terms: “…a national treasure…;” “…one of the finest authors and best story tellers in the language….” So far he’s been nominated for ten Pushcart Prizes, won a 2006 Ippy Award, the Silver Rose Award for Excellence in the Art of the Short Story, and the Georges Simenon Award for Excellence in Fiction. So why isn’t he internationally famous?

Readers can’t skip read their way through Tom Sheehan’s stories if they want to know the truth. The full impact of his work comes with savoring each word and turn of phrase, lingering in those intimate moments that bring Sheehan’s real or fictional characters to life. Consider, for example, this excerpt from “The Storekeeper,” where even a minor character and moment shines with typical Sheehan vibrancy:
          “The hard words came one evening just as supper hit the table and twilight was still holding sway, the shadows soft, day dwindling down to its knees: her husband Harry had been declared missing, lost at sea from a destroyer in the Mediterranean, half a world away, a lifetime away. Shadows joined with shadows, loss atop loss. George Drew, the fire chief, brought the word. He was the self-appointed dispenser of the awful tasks in his snappy uniform, black gloves, white hat, pants pressed so that the creases were like sheet metal lines, and all blue, the length of him all blue. When he tucked his white hat under his blue arm, every person on the street knew it was not an inspection of the premises being approached, the slow walk into a front yard, the unhurried climb to the porch, the soft tap on the door. And nothing followed that first announcement of the loss of Harry. No whispers. No rumors. Loss settled on us, heavy as one could imagine.”

In this latest book, Tom Sheehan’s diverse library of lives include numbers runners, farmers, cops, children, parents, lovers, soldiers and shipyard workers. His heroes are forged from simple folk who come from tenements and side street shacks, boatyards and battlefields. Within these pages, readers will find murder, trampled innocence, redemption, and the endurance marks of shattered lives restored by time. And always, tucked inside each of these 17 stories like a gift, Sheehan buries slow blurs of beauty, sly humor, sensual joy, stabs of unearthly silence, and words carried on wings of excruciating tenderness.

Tom Sheehan is the sort of writer who comes along once in a reader’s lifetime. He’s one of the best five living writers in the world, in my opinion. His work is stunning, powerful, humorous, shattering, and highly recommended.

Review by Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review, New Works Review, SquidLit.com

Brief Cases, Short Spans
By Tom Sheehan
ISBN 978-0-9816280-5-9
213 pages at 16.00 paperback +$2.00 S+H
Press53
P.O. Box 30314
Winston-Salem NC 27130