>Herb’s Pajamas, by Abigail Thomas

>Most writers I know are fans of Abigail Thomas. I know I have been since I read her creative non-fiction book, Safekeeping, a few years ago. The short story collection, Herb’s Pajamas, predates that wonderful book, but I’m only now getting around to reading it. The stories here are loosely linked. The four stories, one of which comes in 15 parts, named for various parts of the protagonist’s wardrobe, are about people who live on the same block in New York. They may appear in cameo in the other stories (in “Bunny’s Sister,” Bunny recalls seeing a woman wearing a hat with cherries, who is certainly Edith from the “Hats” section of “Edith’s Wardrobe”), or they may play a more substantial role (Belle turns to Edith for help when Ray, who had appeared in Edith’s story, dies suddenly in “Herb’s Pajamas”).

They’re all engaging stories but I was most surprised to like “Bunny’s Sister” because I’m not usually a fan of stories with adolescent protagonists, the “coming of age” genre being my least favorite of all. But Bunny in this story is both older and younger than her chronological age. Her older sister has run away because of a conflict with their mother and step-father and Bunny, having her own conflicts with them, sets off to find her, experiencing along the way the unexpected kindness of strangers.

“You leave traces of yourself, Bunny thinks, everywhere you’ve been. Silvery shapes. She has thought hard about it. Because to tell the truth this isn’t the only time she has seen Merle. The first time was on the bus that goes up Broadway. Bunny had been outside the Cathedral Market. There in the third window, her face against the glass, was Merle. She hadn’t smiled, she hadn’t waved, she had just fixed her eyes on Bunny. She’d looked sad.”

It’s a fast and rewarding read from a terrific writer.

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