Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye; Anne Tyler


Author:  Anne Tyler
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Setting: Baltimore, MD
Date Completed: 3/4/2012
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

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!

28 comments:

  1. I love Tyler's work and need to get hold of this. It sounds wonderful.

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  2. I have never read Anne Tyler before. I might have to remedy that!

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  3. Thanks for reviewing this. I love Anne Tyler too so I'd better get on a list to snatch it up.

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  4. I'll have to put this one on my wish list. It sounds like a good book on love and loss, and am glad the ending makes it worthwhile as well.

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  5. Fantastic review, Diane. I can't wait to read it!

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  6. This one sounds wonderful! Thanks for the great review, Diane.

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  7. Oh, such a beautiful review. I do want to read it. Have you seen the movie Truly, Madly, Deeply? The description reminds me of it a little bit. I don't love all of AT's work, but there are some I think are just excellent. My favorite being Back When We Were Grownups. The second is Noah's Compass (and you commented on the book report!).

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  8. I haven't read any Tyler, but you make this book sound so enticing. I also loved the quotes that you shared with us today. Great review, I will be looking for this book when I can!

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  9. I am an Anne Tyler fan. I am really glad that she has a new book coming and it sounds wonderful.

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  10. I read one Anne Tyler years ago and promptly decided she was an acquired taste that I hadn't acquired. Never read her again. Now that seems wrong; will try her again before I dismiss her altogether. Hopefully my initial judgement was too hasty.

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  11. That one reaaly sounds incredible, you sold me! Great review!

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  12. Oh, this book sounds so good...just as Tyler's books all do. I love the "ordinary" and "quirky" characters she gives us.

    Your review was excellent, and I can't wait to read this.

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  13. I too haven't read any Tyler yet -- but her writing seems so marvelous -- I love the quotes you shared! As always, adding this to my TBR -- hopefully I'll get to her soon!

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  14. I've been on the fence about this one. It looked interesting (and I love the cover art), but also sounded a bit dark for my taste. Now that you've given me a more in-depth look, I think it might be something I would like. I'll give it another look, anyway.

    Thanks for the great review.

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  15. I love Tyler's work so I'll definitely be picking this one up. I'm glad you hear it's a good one.

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  16. I don't know why I haven't read Anne Tyler before. I know here work is excellent I've just never been totally captured by here. But I think you've convinced me to give her a try. Thanks.

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  17. I still can't believe I haven't read any Anne Tyler yet. I've always picked up her books and considered reading them and then I always get distracted; I need to stop delaying.

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  18. You clearly liked this one more than I did. Although I did love the writing, I was troubled by the lack fo character development or plot. It felt long, and it's a little book. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  19. Anne Tyler is one of my all-time favorite authors and this is high on my TBR list! The line about reading being the first to go is so sad to me. I can't imagine if I lost someone beloved, AND I lost reading, too. I'm not sure how I'd go on after that. I must always have reading.

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  20. Oh I was waiting for you to review this. I think I need to read this. I've read Tyler off and on for years, and I was curious how this was going to be.

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  21. i'm huge on having good characters and i can't believe i've never read any of tyler's works before! i feel like i need to run out there and get some of her books and meet all of her wonderful characters.

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  22. This book sounds really good.

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  23. What an excellent review, Diane! I've enjoyed so many of Tyler's books. Can't wait to read this one.

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  24. Anne Tyler is one of those hit & miss authors for me. However, I got goosebumps while reading your review. This is one I have to try!!

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  25. I'm so excited to read your highly recommended thoughts on this one. I just downloaded it to my Kindle!! I hope to get to it this month still!

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  26. I really need to read Anne Tyler. I've heard great things about her, and just haven't picked up any of her books for some reason...

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  27. I love the few Tyler books I've read and obviously need to read more.

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  28. I think I only read one by Tyler (Digging to America) and I didn't care for it, so I'm leery to try another one.

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