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.
Anne Tyler's new novel, The Beginners Goodbye, follows (unfortunately) in the footsteps of her other recent novels. Anne Tyler's prose used to be cutting, concise, revelatory. Basically, everything she wrote before 1992: I was an automatic fan. Since then, she appears to have slipped into a kind of formulaic, vaguely "chick lit-ish" rut, and can't seem to find her way out. I know, I shouldn't say "chick lit," but sometimes it just works. The narrator of The Beginner's Goodbye is a man, but hardly - that is, he's hardly a character at all. I found his voice unconvincing, and oddly autistic in a way that it doesn't need to be. The story itself is appealing (a tree falls into Aaron and Dorothy's house, killing Dorothy, who reappears as a ghost and starts following Aaron around), but the writing is lifeless and sappy in turns, and altogether simply not very good. I miss the old Anne Tyler. I wonder what happened to her." - Morgan Macgregor
"An uncharacteristically slight work by a major novelist." - Kirkus Reviews
"Starred Review. This is no gothic ghost story nor chronicle of a man unraveling in his grief, but rather an uplifting tale of love and forgiveness. By the end of this wonderful book, you've lived the lives and loves of these characters in the best possible way." - Publishers Weekly
"A classic Tyler novel that fans will want; with a reading group guide." - Library Journal
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Rated of 5
A different look at grieving
First of all, why do characters named Dorothy always seem to be old and dumpy? It is especially unnerving now that I am old and dumpy myself!
Ok, on to the subject. We hear so much about the stages of grief: denial, anger, sadness, acceptance--or however they go--but Anne Tyler has given us another perspective. Our widower, Aaron, learns to sort out his memories of his late wife and their relationship and finds his own way to deal with his loss. As the scripture says, the truth will set you free. I was drawn in by her opening line and then by her believable and likeable characters (yes, even dumpy Dorothy). This is a good book for Anne Tyler fans, those new to her work, and for book clubs looking for a shorter read that still holds plenty to discuss.
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis in 1941 but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University, and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. She has published seventeen books. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Tyler is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
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