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The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
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Apr 04, 2012

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Read in March, 2012

Anne Tyler has a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf, but mostly for long-passed novels such as "Breathing Lessons," "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" and "The Accidental Tourist." The last of hers I thoroughly enjoyed was the 1998 "A Patchwork Planet."

Each of the books since then - "Back When We Were Grownups," "The Amateur Marriage," "Digging to America" and "Noah's Compass" - I've apparently forgotten, although I know I read them when they came out. But there's enough of a glimmer there, still, for me to grab "The Beginner's Goodbye" when I saw it.

It's not atypical Tyler: A reserved man who's not lived up to his potential, living in residential Baltimore with smothering family members and friends, working a quirky job that apparently causes no stress or financial hardship. Honestly, I enjoyed this one while reading it, partly from following the heated excesses of George R.R. Martin and the more eloquent but still florid Tim Powers; Tyler's sweet gentility is like a breath of spring air after frigid winter or wilting summer.

Can I recommend this one? Only for Tyler completists. It's a slim thing, an afternoon or even long lunch read. To see why she won the Pulitzer, and why often-good films have been adapted from her work, go back to that '80s peak that began with "Morgan's Passing" and ran through "Dinner," "Accidental Tourist," "Breathing Lessons" and "Saint Maybe."

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Linda I agree that Tyler's last few books have not been her best. Nothing can compare to Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant although I think Searching for Caleb is a really close second. Oddly, parts of Ladder of Years and Celestial Navigation stick with me although I didn't care much for Breathing Lessons or The Accidental Tourist and I can barely recall A Patchwork Planet. I guess there is no such thing as a bad Anne Tyler novel! Even Morgan's Passing which left me very unsatisfied, has bits I will never forget. I will keep on reading her books as long as she writes them. Even at her worst, nobody else is that good.

Mark I'll always read her, too. But I can't agree that nobody else is that good. Nobody else is quite like her, though.

Renata Interesting on how many of us identify the same of her best books. I read Searching for Caleb several times and rank Dinner at HR as one of my all time favorites. I almost did not buy Beginner's Goodbye because I really cannot even remember the plots or the characters of her last several books. However, how could I pass it by? I am glad I read it and know that if I need a quick Anne Tyler fix - a jump into her world - I can reread this short novella again for an afternoon tea!

Linda That's the wonderful thing about Anne Tyler - I can always dip into one of her books and lose myself. Even dusting the book shelves, I cannot see one of hers without taking it down and opening it up.

Renata Ahhh..."Even dusting the book shelves, I cannot see one of hers without taking it down and opening it up." Isn't that one of the great pleasures of having a home library??? Its one reason I love summer best...I have the leisure to do just that (not that I haven't been found wantonly leaning and reading in the middle of some other task on a Saturday). It is also why I winnow my bookshelves carefully - I only want treasured temptations! I need to replace Dinner at the HS Restaurant - I miss it as I linger over titles.

Linda Winnowing is very satisfying. I knew my marriage would last when I finally decided we didn't need two copies of mutual favorites. Now I put things on Kindle, which is another form of winnowing. (I try not to think of a world without electronics.) Some physical books remain - the set of Harry Potters my son bought me for Christmas, my old Andersen's Fairy tales with the Arthur Szyk illustrations, and, so far, all my Anne Tylers.

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