The Beginner’s Goodbye
I’ve been a fan of Anne Tyler for years. Her stories are mostly set in Maryland, and her main characters are eminently quirky, if loveably so. The Beginner’s Goodbye isn’t long (9 chapters, 208 pages), but it’s a gem. The story unfolds through the eyes of 38-year-old Aaron, whose wife died the year before but whom he swears he has seen several times since. Oh, he hasn’t told anyone that she comes back to see him, though he has plenty of explanations for it. Most, of course, have to do with understanding his life with her and accepting her death. Ms. Tyler nails that, tackling each stage of grief in a way that is totally entertaining. Yes, entertaining. There’s much humor here.
Being a writer, I have always envied Anne Tyler’s knack for description. Take this example. Of his wife, Aaron says, “She had a broad, olive-skinned face, appealingly flat-planed, and calm black eyes that were noticeably level, with that perfect symmetry that makes the viewer feel rested.” Do you see her? I do.
Anne Tyler first hit it big with books like An Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. If you’ve never read her before, you could start with one of those, or skip right ahead to The Beginner’s Goodbye.