The Good in Farewells   Leave a comment

Anne Tyler is a gifted story teller. Her characters are ordinary, and if you live in
Baltimore — her setting of choice — they could easily be your next door neighbors.
She makes the potentially banal into something sublime. Such is the case with 
The Beginner’s Goodbye
, a finely-threaded novel about a man, Aaron, left to
scrutinize his marriage following the death of his wife in a freak household accident.
The story’s beauty deepens as Aaron is ultimately forced to confront his relation-
ship with not only his deceased wife, Dorothy, but also with his sister, co-workers,
and others he’d rather ignore.

The beginner in the title comes from the succession of books published at Aaron’s
small, family-run publishing house. Humorously based on the Dummies’ series, the
Beginner’s books address everything from kitchen remodeling to dog training, from
wine tasting to bird watching. In a way, Tyler’s novel is about how to avoid dealing
with grief. Aaron is pathetic, and, if not for glimmers of humor, would be a completely
disagreeable protagonist due to his efforts to deflect expressions and gestures of sym-
pathy as well as support. By the way, Aaron stutters and his right side is crippled. He
has a history of impeding assistance, which he mistakes for pity. He has always kept
everyone at bay. From Aaron’s perspective, so did Dorothy. Ironically, Dorothy’s re-
appearance as an apparition helps him acknowledge this and other truths.

This is no ghost story or smoke and mirrors tale. Instead, it’s about love, loss and un-

Four Bookmarks

The Beginner’s Goodbye

Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

197 pages


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: