I have a connection to "Shirts and Skins" that is purely coincidental. For a while, I lived near Hamilton, Ontario (and at times, lived in Hamilton itself). My life in Hamilton was rarely enjoyable, and when my father passed away - in a hospital in Hamilton - the place was cemented in my mind as somewhere I just never wanted to be again.
Connecting with Luscombe's character, Joshua Moore, was therefore immediate and gratifying. By the time Josh is a young adult, he's aware of how much he wants to leave Hamilton, and his inability to do so easily becomes a heartbeat of frustration and repression throughout the stories that make up the continuity of "Shirts and Skins."
The short stories are complete entities in and of themselves, and each visits Josh chronologically as he moves from being a mostly innocent child to an outgoing youth to a jaded and hardened young man and beyond. The stories are snapshots: important moments that define Josh and his journey, and bring the reader along for the ride. Sometimes the reader winces in empathy, sometimes the reader wants to reach in and shake Josh hard, but always I was involved and tangled in Josh's life.
It would be easy to dismiss these stories (and the book as a whole) as a "coming of age" progression. There are shades of that, yes, but I think there's a depth here that could be missed if you categorize the collection too quickly. Josh doesn't just progress, he regresses and represses. The orbit of his family members around him rings so true (and especially painful) that I could see, and smell, and taste the Hamilton I've avoided so long. That Josh was enough to make me revisit that place is one example of how engaging the characters and stories were.
I look forward to more Luscombe, and hope to find more of his tales.