Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye- Anne Tyler--Review

"In a way it's like the grief has been covered over with some kind of blanket. It's still there, but the sharpest edges are...muffled sort of. Then every now and then, I lift a corner of the blanket, just to check and--whoa! Like a knife! I'm not sure that ever will change."

Aaron Woolcott says this. He is the main character in Anne Tyler's latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye.  In the first few pages of the book, we read that Aaron's wife had died in an accident.  The excerpt above is part of a conversation Aaron has with a colleague.  It is a while since Dorothy (the wife) has passed and the colleague asks Aaron how he is doing.  I don't think one has to lose a spouse to identify with that feeling.  

The book is about how Aaron copes with the loss.  Aaron and his sister own a family publishing business.  A successful component for the company is a series of thin volumes that superficially address popular issues. The series is called, "The Beginner's..." For example,  The Beginner's Guide to Marriage, The Beginner's Kitchen, The Beginner's Book of Birdwatching.   This novel, The Beginner's Goodbye,  is itself a thin novel (198 pages) and is, in a way, a beginner's guide to emotional loss as if Aaron's experience is an illustration of the inevitable stages.

I am a fan of Anne Tyler and enjoyed the read.  Not as good as Noah's Compass or a Patchwork Planet, or The Accidental Tourist, and probably not the book you want to be reading if your spouse has indeed left this life very recently. Still very good.  Tyler's characters are quirky yet we all know them.  The descriptions and dialogue are--as it is currently said by people twenty years my junior--spot on.  The excerpt that begins this post is an example. If you reread it, I think you will be able to identify a time when that sensation described exactly how you felt.

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