The Trouble with Tom
Half travelogue, half delightfully obscure history lesson, The Trouble with Tom chronicles the odd paths taken by the corpse of Thomas Paine, the Founding Father who penned the revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense and was later branded a pariah after publishing an anti-religion tract. Ten years after his death, Paine’s body was exhumed and transported to England by a former enemy. Over time, various pieces were scattered to and fro, with his bones resting for a while in a London tailor’s footstool and his brain ending up in a box embedded in a New Rochelle, N.Y., monument. Paul Collins deftly jumps between the past and his own present-day search, touching on our nation’s early struggles, progressive movements, and the history of contraception. Even an excess of narrative digressions cannot detract from the pleasures of this compelling and trouble-free read.