December 17, 2012
Shirts and Skins by Jeffrey Luscombe
Though I’ve had Jeffrey Luscombe’s debut novel, Shirts and Skins, for several months I have only recently had the time to finish reading it. It seemed that each time I picked up the book something would cause me to have to put it down again, but recently with a six hour bus drive for a field trip and my recent cold which has kept me in the bed, I was finally able to finish it. And with all good reads, I wish I hadn’t, because I simply want more.
A remarkable debut novel from Jeffrey Luscombe, Shirts and Skins is a compelling series of linked stories of a young man’s coming-out, coming-of-age, and coming-to-terms with his family and fate.
Josh Moore lives with his family on the ‘wrong side’ of Hamilton, a gritty industrial city in southwestern Ontario. As a young boy, Josh plots an escape for a better life far from the steel mills that lined the bay. But fate has other plans and Josh discovers his adult life in Toronto is just as fraught with as many insecurities and missteps as his youth and he soon learns that no matter how far away he might run, he will never be able to leave his hometown behind.
Each time I picked up the book to read, I became engrossed in the life of the main protagonist Joshua Moore. Each time Josh came close to finding his true self in this novel, my heart would break a little when when his true self found a new hiding place.
Some of us come to find our true selves quickly in life, while others of us take years struggling to find who we really are, if we ever do. In the snippets of the seminal points in Josh’s life you will find yourself. Did you make the same decisions as Josh or did you choose a different adventure?
Michael Rowe, author of Enter, Night and Other Men’s Sons wrote that “Shirts and Skins is a novel that will speak to anyone who has ever felt the inextricable bonds of the past, or felt the long shadow of family and home places as they strive towards the light of wholeness of identity and self-ownership. A first novel deeply felt and skillfully told, by a writer with insight, compassion, and talent to burn.”
Jeffrey Luscombe was born in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He holds a BA and MA in English from the University of Toronto. He attended The Humber College School for Writers where he was mentored by writers Nino Ricci and Lauren B. Davis. He has had fiction published in Chelsea Station, Tupperware Sandpiper, Zeugma Literary Journal, and filling Station Magazine. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Prism International Fiction Prize. He was a contributor to the anthology Truth or Dare (Slash Books Inc. 2011). He lives in Toronto with his husband Sean. Shirts and Skins is his first novel.