A Bomb Shelter Romance

 Description of  A Bomb Shelter Romance

For 18-year old Ben O’Neill, being cool is hard to do. Especially during the summer of 1970.

His mother has volunteered the family to help build, as a reporter has dubbed it, “the last bomb shelter of the cold war.” Gripped with a prepare-for-the-worst mentality, Joan O’Neill is a natural for this project. And during the summer of 1970, her internal alarms of impending danger are ringing. Her oldest son is fighting in Vietnam, her oldest daughter is off waging the sexual revolution, and a third is living with her communist boyfriend. Feeling helpless toward the three oldest, Joan O’Neill undertakes the bomb shelter project, hoping that involving her remaining children in a project of protection will somehow shield them from all the dangers that seem so imminent.

But in a small town far away from any militarily strategic target, the bomb shelter becomes an object of derision, and Ben’s hopes for a summer of romance quickly fade. That is, until Brad Richardson, the blind owner of the local movie theater, joins the bomb shelter crew. It is through Brad that Ben meets Suzanne—a girl whose beauty is matched only by her refusal to be embarrassed about working on the bomb shelter. The romance between Ben and Suzanne progresses amidst the increasingly stormy events of a town suddenly caught up in a cascade of unintended consequences.

When their bus breaks down, a group of college students on their way to a political demonstration decide to stay and protest the bomb shelter. This siege of outside agitators turns the town into a cultural and political battleground, with the bomb shelter at ground zero. And despite all Joan O’Neill’s good intentions, disaster ensues.

Reviews of A Bomb Shelter Romance

“I know I am going out on a limb by saying this, but A Bomb Shelter Romance by Patrick M. Garry is the best book I have reviewed in a very long time! This is a profoundly bold statement coming from a jaded book reviewer who often finds it difficult to finish the books I review without drowning in literary regurgitation. But I have two strong reasons for making this statement and they are described below.

The first reason is that the book introduces an extremely loveable cast of characters that most anyone can relate to. The principal character is Ben O’Neill, a high school senior whose life is awash in self doubt, diffidence, and raging hormones; who falls in love with a summer visitor Suzanne, a beautiful girl who is so self-confident and so out of his league, that when she expresses interest in him he is absolutely clueless about what to do next. (Been there, done that!) Ben has a large family that includes his mother Joan, a serial pessimist; a brother fighting in Vietnam; a sister who is living in a hippie commune in California; and another sister who is thinking about dropping out of college to support her boyfriend who is allegedly a communist.

But wait, there is more! Add to the cast of characters Hank, a regular resident in the local jail for harassing his many ex-wives; Brad, a blind man who is hopelessly in love with Franny, a 280-pound woman with a moustache; Feldon, a one arm handyman who suffers from unrequited love for Ben’s old maid aunt; and Suzanne’s mother, the local femme fatale who is the mistress of the happily married and extremely jealous mayor. The second reason the book is so great is the plot, which begins when Ben’s mother volunteers to oversee the construction of a bomb shelter, a structure many believe will be the last bomb shelter ever built in America. It was 1970 after all, and Cold War fears were beginning to fade. Once started, the bomb shelter becomes the center of all the action. It was there that Ben and Suzanne consummated their love; and it was in front of the shelter that two unlikely groups joined forces to protest the shelter as somehow being pro-war: namely, a group of women attending a seminar on fulfillment (read that, orgasmically-challenged); and a passing group of pot smoking, hippie antiwar protestors. When the dust cleared, the sleepy, Midwestern town of Pinestock would never be the same.

A Bomb Shelter Romance is only 228-pages long and I knew I was in trouble when I started to read more slowly to make the story last longer. At times, I snorted with muffled laughter so loud that my wife finally asked me to leave the room. But the author played a dirty trick on me. In the final pages, he summarized the lives of all the characters several years hence and the result was so poignant and touching that I finished the book with tears in my eyes. This, I was not expecting.

So, what was the book all about and what did it mean to Ben? To put it in his words, ‘In the summer of 1970, I fought the Cold War. I worked on a bomb shelter that had already gone bankrupt.  I read romance novels to a blind man. And I chauffeured around a suicidal inmate of the city jail.  And in the course of all that, I fell in love. Which has since led me to conclude that love comes only when you are doing everything possible to discourage it.’

A Bomb Shelter Romance by Patrick M. Garry is a great read; but be forewarned that once you start reading it, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s that kind of book.”
-Ron Standerfer, Book Reviewer for Ezine Articles

“I was immediately hooked by this novel’s narrative voice, a voice that was calmly and intelligently and wittily reflective….This book is really excellent and deserves a wide audience.”
-Writer’s Digest International Book Awards

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.

There are many other characters that make up this town … that … are very interesting characters and round out the book and the storyline quite well. 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!
-Review by Storybook Reviews (view full review here)

“Patrick Garry’s novel has captured a bit of time, the 1970s–the cold war, Vietnam, protests, sexual revolution, small town mores, young innocence, and adult promiscuity. A Bomb Shelter Romance is a simple, delightful story about a family and the unique characters who come together to finish this controversial project. The novel is well written, well edited, and Garry is an educated, consummate writer. Delightful…truly delightful!!…and highly recommended.”
Kaye Trout’s Book Reviews

Bomb Shelter Romance is a sweet and touching reminiscent tale about life during the Vietnam War.  The small town of Pinehurst is building the last bomb shelter of the cold war, told from the point of view of the second oldest son of a large family, just about to leave for college. … This is a very enjoyable book…

The summer of 1970 is the setting for A Bomb Shelter Romance by Patrick M. Garry, a novel that evokes fond memories for those who were alive then and a window into the beginning of that tumultuous decade. For 18-year-old Ben O’Neill, life was becoming an embarrassment as his mother volunteers the family to build what one reporter called “the last bomb shelter of the cold war” and to do it in a small town that is the least likely missile target in the nation. Joan O’Neill, however, is filled with forebodings. Her oldest son is fighting in Vietnam, her oldest daughter is off waging the sexual revolution, and a third is living with her communist boyfriend. The bomb shelter is a metaphor for her fears, but for Ben it becomes the place he meets Suzanne, a real beauty. His first real romance blossoms and you will want to be there as the town becomes a cultural and political battleground raging around the bomb shelter. Garry has perfectly captured the teenager’s grasp of his small town world and the world beyond it. You will love it from the first page.
-Alan Caruba, Charter Member, National Book Critics Circle

A Bomb Shelter Romance by Patrick M. Garry is one of those slow reads that reminds you that life is good, and that a good writer can change your perception of the world, if only for a short time. This is one book I wish would have been so much longer.
-Awards program review, Reader Views

A Bomb Shelter Romance by Patrick M. Garry is a story of a small town and a large family. It is about war and protesters. However, it is also about feelings. Even with everything going on, people still fall in love. Readers love a good story, and A Bomb Shelter Romance finds a way to fit love into a war-weary time.
TCM Reviews

“This was definitely a good book and I liked the epilogue the best, it tugged at my heartstrings.”

Listed as a recommended book on Bookviews.com

Featured on The Book or Bust blog in the recommended 5-star Literary Fiction category

Literary Awards

2010 International Book Award 

2010 National Indie Excellence Award

2009 Jack Eadon Award for Best Contemporary Fiction 

2009 Independent Book Publishing Professionals Literary Award 

2009 National Best Books Award for Literary Fiction