Wounded veterans inspired Toledo author’s novelWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
A Toledo author’s latest book was inspired by the sacrifices made by men and women in the armed services.
“The Town That Never Stared,” Terence O’Leary’s second young adult novel, is set in Grand Rapids, Ohio, and focuses on teenage brothers and high school football teammates Boomer and Cody Brennan.
As a lineman, Boomer protects his younger brother, the quarterback, on their high school football field. Boomer is good enough to play college ball, but decides to enlist in the Army instead.
After Boomer is severely burned trying to save fellow soldiers trapped in their vehicle by a roadside bomb explosion, Cody works to bring him home and help the town see past his disfigurement to celebrate his heroism.
Although the story is fictional, O’Leary was inspired by real soldiers, including Pat Tillman, an NFL player who enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, 2001 and was killed in action in 2004.
“In the back of my mind was Pat Tillman,” O’Leary said. “Boomer is kind of cut from the same cloth. He wanted to be the warrior and he wanted to protect his village.”
He was also inspired by Marine Corps Sgt. Merlin German, who was thrown from his Humvee in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated. Despite burns on more than 97 percent of his body, German fought to survive for more than 17 months and 100 surgeries, before succumbing to his injuries in 2008 at age 22.
The book is distributed in the burns and traumatic brain injury segments of Brooke Army Medical Center as inspiration for wounded warriors, said O’Leary, who speaks regularly about the book at high schools, libraries and local events.
O’Leary said he hopes the story helps people remember to honor the thousands of men and women who have been injured at war.
“These are heroes and I think that’s the way we need to treat and look at them, especially the ones with traumatic brain injuries. Some of them, their lives will never be the same,” O’Leary said. “But I also want to stress to people who look at this and say ‘I don’t want to read this; it’s a downer,’ that it’s really not. It’s a heart-warming, uplifting story. When you finish it, you feel good. You realize that one person can make a difference. Cody changes the way the whole town looks at his brother. You could even say
Northwest Ohioans will be familiar with many scenes in the book, including walleye fishing, changing seasons and Friday night football, said O’Leary, a graduate of Central Catholic High School and the University of Toledo.
“I think setting is really important to a story,” O’Leary said. “I actually fell in love with Grand Rapids, Ohio; I think it’s just a fantastic little town. It had the family values and the four seasons I wanted to incorporate into the story. It’s a very quick easy read and I’m very happy with it. I think the best fiction is based on fact.”
The book, published last year by Swan Creek Press, is available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle versions. It can also be purchased through Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
O’Leary’s debut novel, “More Than a Game,” was a father/son baseball tale set in Toledo and centered around the Mud Hens. He is at work on his third novel, “Penalty Kick,” which will have a soccer theme.