Tom Wedderburn has every opportunity to have a full life. Although he is born
into a poor family and grows up in the early 20th-century Wyoming wilderness,
his early ambitions take him to other parts of the world. He fights in World War II as a Marine Raider on Guadalcanal, leads men during the
invasion of Iwo Jima, captures the heart of a beautiful nurse, and becomes a
wealthy man in his later years. Yet Tom Wedderburn dies an unmarried,
childless, and nearly penniless man.
Why? Because Tom Wedderburn
is a pessimistic man. He contends that early in
his life, he "over emphasized the power of thinking positive thoughts." He
believed that "to admit a single moment of doubt and to see an alternative
future in which the worst occurred was to bring the full catastrophe."
During the war, he refuses to show any measure of friendship toward the men
who serve with him after witnessing the deaths of several members of his first
troop. He does not want to suffer any grief just in case any of them
are killed in action. While in the hospital recovering from injuries he suffers
in the war, he becomes attracted to a young nurse who eventually lets
him know she has feelings for him. But just when the relationship turns serious,
he runs away for no other reason than fear. The nurse offers him everything he
wants in life, yet his doubts make him believe the worst will somehow come of it.
Tom's other lifetime problem is a girl named Julia. He falls in love with
her when they are just children. But just like Forrest Gump's Jenny, Julia
doesn't even consider spending her adult life with a small-town boy. Still,
Julia also returns to Tom as a down-and-out adult, but where Jenny gave Forrest
a son, Julia only gives Tom more reasons to remain a doubtful man.
Author Theodore Judson creates a character who is unfortunately believable.
Unfortunate because, like so many of us, Tom lives a life of missed
opportunities and bad decisions. Tom's story is told in his own voice, a
wise decision on Judson's part since simply relaying the highlights of such
an unproductive life without offering up personal reflections would border
on the humdrum.
Much like Tom's life, the book Tom Wedderburn's Life is a so-so story that
leaves the reader shaking his head, quite sure that given the opportunity
he would do things differently. But perhaps that's the whole point author
Judson is trying to make. We make the decisions in our lives based on our
own beliefs and situations. We also judge others accordingly. So who are we
to say that Tom Wedderburn did not live a full life? If a full life means
having a family and money in the end, than Tom's life doesn't measure up to
one. But, if like Tom, we live a life honest to our nature, then we can go to
our graves with some measure of satisfaction.
© 2002 by
April Galt for Curled Up With a Good Book