Getting Over Tom by Abigail Thomas ’59. If you have read anything I have written about Abigail Thomas, you know that I am a fan.I want to read everything she has written.This book of short stories, the first volume she published, probes the subtleties and complexities of being part of families that, in their own ways, are unhappy. The various females voices, telling their stories, are frank and observant; their naivete makes them vulnerable.Being about the same age as Abigail, I recognize the culture of teens and young adults in the late fifties and early sixties where much of what we cared about was shrouded in silence or alluded to only in hushed whispers.These girls are on their own to figure out how to get on with the business of life.
Touches of magical realism, which sometimes veer toward the grotesque and sometimes toward whimsy,enliven the stories.Uncle Peach commits suicide by shooting off both ears in a rowboat.Buddy’s greatest work is his artistic rendering of the universe on the very pregnant stomach of his wife.She can tell when he is working on Pegasus, and a wing birthmark turns up on the newborn baby.
The final story, from which this collection takes its name, “Getting Over Tom,” is less about Tom than about fiction writing itself, particularly how life becomes art. Here there are three Louises:the Louise who writes the stories, the Louise whose lived experience is fodder for the stories, and the fictional Louise, who makes it onto the page.The interplay, particularly between Louise 1 and Louise 2, opens a window onto how writers transform life into fiction.More important than what really happened is what the title tells us.It appears that you can write your way out of heartbreak.The last image of the book is of Louise dancing with herself.I guess the three faces of Louise are pretty much over Tom.