The Beginner's Goodbye
- Publication Date:
- 05 April 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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In her latest novel, ’The Beginner’s Goodbye,’ Anne Tyler portrays the American way of dealing with the death of a loved one….which is usually not too well.Aaron loses his wife Dorothy in a freak accident when a tree falls on their house. One moment they’re a couple - not as compatible as they’d like, but still working at creating a good marriage - and then she’s gone and he’s alone. And Aaron, with support from family, friends, and neighbors, goes through shock, and sadness, and confusion, and all the other stages of grief that we know so well.But Aaron is a quirky Tyler character in that magical Tyler Baltimore that only she seems able to locate. And his journey through grief, though sad, will also be enlightening for both protagonist and reader.To say that Tyler is a master craftsman is an understatement. The novel’s first sentence says it all: “The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.”Tyler’s is a kinder, gentler view of humankind….she sees us as we are and as we wish to be. Dorothy’s post-death visits force Aaron, once his grief has ebbed a bit, to give serious thought to their marriage and to his own failures and hopes.Tyler tells us that death is a leveler; that it hurts; that it can’t be avoided. But that, with care, our lives, like Aaron’s, will go on.(The publisher provided a review copy of this book.)
I love Anne Tyler and have read every one of her novels. In this story, Aaron Woolcott has just lost his wife and we experience his process of grieving and dealing with his loss. In typical Anne Tyler fashion, Aaron and other main characters are slightly off-beat, but presented as entirely mainstream. I found this story reminiscent of some of her earlier books and completely enjoyed it.To contradict some of the other reviewers: I would not say that this book features magical realism or supernatural events. What we have is Aaron's conscious and subconscious mind (and his heart) dealing with his loss.
, What a rare and beguiling treat a new Tyler novel is. This one, like her last, deals with a man alone; in this case Aaron, whose wife Dorothy has been killed in a freak accident, and who is learning to come to terms with his grief and move on. I sometimes wonder if Tyler is not valued as highly as she might be because whatever vicissitudes her characters endure, they do do just that – endure, and not just stoically, but quirkily, making the most of the magic moments that still come in life. She deals with life and death issues, with the mundane everyday problems of choosing food and preparing it, deciding what clothes to wear – with the whole texture of life, not showily, but with affection for her characters, with humour, and with a pathos that never descends to mawkishness. She has now written enough books for you to be aware of parallels, of recurring tropes (there are more than a few reminders of Accidental Tourist here), but somehow this just increases the pleasure, adds to the layers of this quite short but perfectly-formed book.
"The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted."Aaron Woolcott is a married, thirtysomething, book publisher. When his physician wife is suddenly killed in an accident, Aaron is set adrift. One day, his wife “seems” to return and offer him guidance. This has all the Tyler trademarks: eccentric characters, dry, sometimes biting humor and an uncanny sense of human nature. I thought it was terrific and reminded me of her classic The Accidental Tourist.
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