Title: The Beginner's GoodbyeAuthor: Anne Tyler
Publication Year: 2012Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Edition: ARCSource: Amazon Vine
Setting: Baltimore, MD
Date Completed: 3/4/2012Rating: 5/5
Anne Tyler, in my opinion, is one of those talented authors known for her in-depth character studies. By the time I've finished reading one of her books, I usually feel like her protagonist is someone I have known for a while. Her subjects tend to be quirky, flawed, yet very ordinary, and often they are dealing with a troubling issue.
In her newest novel , The Beginner's Goodbye, which will release next month, the protagonist, Aaron Wolcott, is a man who looks much older than his years. Only in his mid-30's, Aaron walks with a limp and uses a cane, ever since a childhood illness left him slightly paralyzed. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in English, but after college ended up working in the family's vanity press publishing business editing books. He's a loner by nature, but one of those sad sacks I couldn't help but feel sorry for. At 24, he meets Dorothy, AKA, Dr. Dorothy, who is 8 years his senior, and, an introvert and loner like himself. After just 4 months, they marry and have a happy, yet unremarkable marriage of 10 years. All of that ends when one day Dorothy dies in a freak accident, when a tree falls through the roof of their small home. She was only 43.
Aaron's life is torn apart after Dorothy's passing. While he is having the home repaired, he moves in with his single sister, Nandina, who still lives in the family home where they grew up. Aaron's room is exactly as it was before he left for college, and although his well-meaning sister gets on his nerves at times, he can't bear the thought of ever going back to his house where his wife had died, even after the repairs are complete. Poor Aaron's a mess, he is questioning himself with all the "what if" scenarios that might have prevented his wife's death. He finds no pleasure in life, and can't even enjoy reading his books before bed.
" Reading is the first to go", my mother use to say, meaning that it was a luxury the brain dispensed with when under duress. She claimed after my father died she never again picked up anything more demanding than the morning paper.
Before long, Aaron begins to see Dorothy making a brief appearance here and there. It is through her brief appearances that he is able to reflect on their years together, and see things at times in a whole new light. Her visits make him recall not only the good times, but all of Dr. Dorothy's annoyances as well, helping him work through the grieving process.
"But put yourself in my place. Call to mind a person you've lost that you will miss to the end of your days, and then imagine happening upon that person out in public You see your long-dead father sauntering ahead with his hands in his pockets. Or you hear your mother behind you calling, "honey?" Or your Little brother who fell through the ice the winter he was six, let's say, passes by with his smell of menthol cough drops and damp mittens. You wouldn't question your sanity, because you couldn't bear to think it wasn't real. And you certainly wouldn't demand explanations, or alert anybody nearby, or reach out to touch this person, not even if you'd been feeling that one touch was worth giving up everything for you. You would hold your breath. You would keep as still as possible. You would will your loved one not to go away again."
Needless to say, The Beginner's Goodbye, is a deeply moving story. It's a story about love, loss, forgiveness and acceptance. It's a story told with humor, so that as the reader, I was never left with a sad or empty feeling. In fact, quite the opposite, the story left me with a lot to think about, and the ending ultimately left me smiling. Highly Recommended - I Loved it!