The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler

The Beginner's Goodbye - Anne Tyler

The Beginner’s Goodbye – Anne Tyler

I’m a Anne Tyler fan – a review here and here – I like how she can make the ordinary extraordinary.

I picked this one up from the library and it was quite an easy read (shorter than other Tyler novels).

Here is the blurb …

Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel in which she explores how a middle-aged man, ripped apart by the death of his wife, is gradually restored by her frequent appearances–in their house, on the roadway, in the market.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron has spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, independent young woman, she is like a breath of fresh air. Unhesitatingly, he marries her, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage.

But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy’s unexpected appearances from the dead help him to live in the moment and to find some peace.

Gradually he discovers, as he works in the family’s vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life, that maybe for this beginner there is a way of saying goodbye.

A beautiful, subtle exploration of loss and recovery, pierced throughout with Anne Tyler’s humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

This was an intriguing premise – right from the start we know Dorothy is dead and that she is visiting Aaron. It does take her a while to come back and at first she is just there not speaking, but then she talks and then they argue. This was a lovely way to show the progress of grief – at first Dorothy (and their life together) is perfect, but then he starts thinking other things – like how nice it is to sort his cupboards and know they will stay sorted, how Dorothy wasn’t very interested in food and how she didn’t pay much attention to how she looked.

The great thing about this novel is the fine detail – almost a series of vignettes of Aaron and Dorothy’s life together is portrayed. The first date – where Dorothy wears her white coat, the wedding – very small, the search for the triscuits, which ended so badly. Through all of these incidents character is revealed and the plot moves slowly forward.

Aaron’s publishing company publishes beginners guides to things – The Beginner’s Dinner Party – and this novel is a beginner’s guide to goodbye.

More reviews…

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