The Book Page II

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

My main complaint about The Beginner's Goodbye is that it it just SO short! I read it in a sitting and really, really didn't want it to end so soon.


The book tells the story of Aaron whose wife, Dorothy, dies in a tragic accident - but then starts appearing in the oddest places.  Because Dorothy is already dead when the story begins, the reader has to form a view on what she might have been like from odd comments here and there. Aaron, who has disabilities which he refuses to recognise as limiting, loved her because she, too, ignored his handicaps. Which sounds callous, but clearly wasn't as far as Aaron was concerned.


The emptiness which comes with the sudden loss of a partner is put over particularly strongly, especially the difficulty of forming and maintaining relationships when the one person you are closest to is not there anymore. Nandina, Aaron's sister, is his back-stop and the flowering of her unlikely relationship with the builder hired to rebuild Aaron's shattered house is unexpectedly sweet.


The name of the book derives from the range of self-help books published by the firm where Aaron works. There is a Beginner's Guide to almost everything, it seems - even, for Aaron, learning to say goodbye to the one person he loved the most. Though, as the story unfolds, he discovers he didn't know as much about her as he thought. And for us readers, who never knew Dorothy when she was alive, her sudden "appearances" help us form in our minds a complex but strangely likeable character. For Aaron the strange sightings are his second chance to understand his lost wife - and in learning more about her, he is able to let her go so that he can move on into a new life (though I was a bit surprised at the rather neat ending.)


So, yes, I enjoyed The Beginner's Goodbye. I just hope Anne Tyler's next book is a little bit longer...

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Latest comments

30.08 | 19:32

P.s. I absolutely adored Gipsy Tart, and, yes, my son has his work cut out!!

30.08 | 19:26

I too went to school in Kent where my Aunt worked as a dinner-lady. I got seconds sometimes thirds of my favourite pud, the said Gipsy Tart. My son’s a dentist!

21.08 | 21:28

Also, Anne always walked the long way home after Rangers so that I didn't have to walk alone down that lane in the dark. I've never forgotten that kindness...

21.08 | 21:23

As one of the Brownies who helped to plant that tree I vividly remember you telling us that you asked a tree expert what kind of tree he recommended!

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