Chapter 7

Tom makes a commitment to himself to become a better person while in New York City. He makes a list of things he wishes to accomplish before the summer is through.

Tom visits Dr. Lowenstein daily. One Tuesday evening they engage in a heated argument about why Tom is not allowed to see Savannah. They argue back and forth--Tom asks Dr. Lowenstein what her first name is; she refuses to tell him. She asks Tom why he hates women. He does not know, but he tells her he also hates men. He asks her to dinner; she agrees. Finally, Dr. Lowenstein tells Tom her first name is Susan.


Tom remembers how his family was the only Roman Catholic family in his town. His parents did not really understand the religion, but they followed what they understood--including not using birth control. Lila was pregnant for four straight years, and lost every baby. The last stillborn baby was named Rose Aster. Savannah was very upset by how her father, seemingly without emotion, put the dead baby in the freezer until she could be buried. One night Tom found Savannah in her bed with the dead baby. He took the baby from her and put it back in the freezer so Savannah would not get beaten by their father. The next day when Tom teased her about taking the baby out of the freezer, Savannah did not remember it at all. Later, Savannah told him she forgot many things and asked Tom to help her remember.

The night they buried Rose Aster, Lila lay in bed, depressed. Henry told Tom to check on her to see if she was all right. Lila told Tom he was all she had. He had to be the one to make something of himself because Luke was too stupid and Savannah was just a girl. She told Tom that she loved him the most. Tom guiltily carried that knowledge around for years. When he finally told Luke and Savannah they laughed: Lila had told each child that she loved him or her best.

Dr. Lowenstein meets Tom that evening at the Coach House, a restaurant chosen by Tom. They talk about their marital situations. Tom tells Dr. Lowenstein that he did not realize how much he loved his wife until she told him about her affair. Dr. Lowenstein tells Tom that her husband tells her she is fat. They talk about their childhoods and their families. Dr. Lowenstein tells Tom about her son, Bernard. Bernard wants to play football, but Herbert, her husband, insists he play the violin. Herbert is a world-class violinist. Dr. Lowenstein asks Tom if he will coach Bernard in football. Tom agrees.

Tom tells Susan (Dr. Lowenstein-he now calls her by her first name) that he was fired because he had a nervous breakdown. He was so sad he could barely do anything. He broke down crying in front of his class then forgot about a football game and did not show up.

Susan tells Tom that she is certain Monique is having an affair with her husband. Tom tells Susan that Monique cannot hold a candle to her.

Notes
In this chapter the reader should note the developing rapport between Susan and Tom. They argue with passion. Furthermore, their relationship is no longer strictly professional and Susan is not always in the position of psychiatrist. Their conversations cover many topics, but the overall message is that Susan is just as vulnerable as anyone else, despite her profession.

Conroy uses the flashback technique in almost every chapter. Flashback is when the author departs from the present storyline and interjects a story from the past. The plot takes place in the present day (the 1980s) but Tom spends much of his time remembering his childhood (1950s/ 1960s) and his early adulthood (1970s). Often these memories begin without introduction. They are not always stories that he is relating to Dr. Lowenstein; sometimes, he is remembering them for himself. This is important because Tom’s time in New York is not only about making Savannah better, he is also trying to heal himself.

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