The Beginnerís Goodbye
By Anne Tyler
As Reviewed by Joan Kirschner
Anne Tyler is one of Americaís most beloved and prolific novelists. Her nineteen novels include Breathing Lessons, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989, and The Accidental Tourist, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1985, was a Pulitzer finalist in 1986, and was made into a memorable movie starring William Hurt and Geena Davis.
Tylerís novels are generally set in Baltimore, where she has long resided, and tend to feature characters who are ill at ease in life, perhaps having some kind of eccentricity, emotional disability or other odd malady. The story is generally about how they learn to cope with their problems, and face life more directly. Through her characters, Tyler seems to focus on how we feel about ourselves when we are questioning our ability to cope with both the major painful losses in life (the death of a spouse in this case), and with the little everyday dramas that challenge our sense of belonging or well-being.
The Beginnerís Goodbye is no exception to Tylerís very heartfelt style. Again, she has assembled a group of slightly odd characters that experience both tragedy and renewal. Again, she is successful, in this rather short novel, in making we the readers feel as though we have an insiderís view into the hearts of her characters, and engages us in their lives. She somehow makes these rather ordinary, somewhat strange people so much larger.
Aaron, the protagonist, is the editor at a family-owned vanity press (a very Tyler-esque occupation) in Baltimore, where he works, with some tension, with his sister, a single, very uptight, controlling woman of a certain age. Aaron has a minor disability, but does his best to overcome it. He is married, but not all that happily, to Dorothy, a physician who is eccentric in her own way. But when Dorothy dies suddenly in a freak domestic accident (a tree falls on her), Aaron is overwhelmed with grief.
Tylerís genius is making this odd story unfold and resolve in a very pleasing, very settled way that, well, makes a lot of sense. As Aaron put the pieces of his life together in a new way, he becomes a much more satisfied, happier person, and his sister, as a pleasant offshoot, finds love in an unlikely man who ties things all together.
It had been quite a while since I had read one of Tylerís novels, and since I am now working and residing part of the time in Baltimore, it seemed fitting to read her newest Baltimore-centric book. I am happy to say that Tyler has not changed, but has somehow just gotten better. The Beginnerís Goodbye is a very appealing, very soul-warming book that will leave you feeling happy and renewed.
© Copyright 2012 by Joan Kirschner
Joan Kirschner is a locally based freelance copywriter and editor specializing in advertising communications, and has more than two decades of experience with leading national retailers and direct marketers. In addition, she is the book critique writer for:
The Women of Gloucester County online magazineís The Book Corner.
Joan received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Penn State University and completed a professional certificate program in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other Languages) at CUNY Brooklyn College. She considers education to be a lifelong process.
Contact Joan at: email@example.com and 856-459-1765 or 856-381-9348.