The Beginner’s Goodbye was a short, easy to read story about love, loss and moving on.
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 spent his childhood fending off a sister who wants to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, a plain, outspoken, self-dependent 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.
Aaron gives a glimpse of his grief and how he deals with the death of his wife. He reflects back on their marriage, the good and the bad, and how people perceived them before and after and how they treat him since her death. I felt Aaron’s reflections were often times offhanded and distant. This allowed the story to move forward without too much drama and saved it from being a tearjerker.
Throughout the book, I kept forgetting that Aaron was only in his 30’s. The author’s descriptions of his handicaps, how he moves and gets on with everyday life, as well as the tone and inflection he uses when speaking to others, kept me thinking he was more in his 60’s. All of the characters seemed older to me than what the author intended.
If this would have been longer and more drawn out, I wouldn’t have liked it nearly as much. However, being short, it ended up being a nice story that I was able to read in an afternoon.