K.'s Reviews > The Beginner's Goodbye

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
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's review
Jun 26, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: aging, death-and-dying
Read from June 26 to 28, 2012

Perhaps this novel failed to impress me because I have recently read several nonfiction books about caring for dying relatives and managing in the wake of such a loss. I have enjoyed other novels by Tyler. This one seemed to never get very deep into the subject matter.

I liked the concept. Aaron, who works for a vanity press, loses his wife Dorothy to a freak accident. We watch him struggle to re-engage in life after this loss. He avoids going home, he has stilted relationships with others, he reviews their married life and finds it unremarkable. But the oddest consequence is the way Dorothy appears now and again, reinserting herself quietly into Aaron's life. Somehow, Tyler keeps this book one about the quiet struggles of day-to-day life--even with this novel's paranormal dimension. Aaron responds so matter-of-factly to Dorothy's appearances, showing indirectly that it's her absence that is the unexpected, grotesque, and paranormal for him.

Perhaps the treatment would have been more suitable for the length of a short story. Tyler herself lost her husband in 1997, so she has the experience to inform this story. Maybe her message is too subtle for me to decode.

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