Monday, June 18, 2012

THE BEGINNER'S GOODBYE by Anne Tyler

Dorothy keeps popping up unexpectedly. Aaron, her husband, first sees her at the house the oak tree fell on. She then starts joining him at random times and places: in the grocery store check-out line, in the street near his office, in Belvedere Square. One day she appears just outside his office window, by the trash cans.

The odd thing is, Dorothy has been dead for nearly a year.

Aaron is neither romantic nor religious. He's the dutiful, unimaginative editor at the family-owned vanity press, publishers of a Beginner's series--"something on the order of the Dummies books, but without the cheerleader tone of voice," thin books to get you started:
Anything is manageable if it's divided into small enough increments, was the theory; even life's most complicated lessons. Not The Beginner's Cookbook but The Beginner's Soups.... Not The Beginner's Child Care but The Beginner's Colicky Baby.
But how can Aaron apply this wisdom to grieving? How can he begin to say goodbye to Dorothy, his wife of ten years?

The Beginner's Goodbye includes everything you'd expect in an Anne Tyler novel (it's her 19th): Lovable, socially awkward characters. Family ties that sometimes bind. Writing that is at once accessible and literary, comic and profound. Baltimore.

It's not as rich as Tyler's magnificent Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, but then a Beginner's guide is just meant to get you started. This one could start a lot of conversations, not only about grief but also about communication in marriage, and how we sabotage our own happiness, and whether marriage partners can ever really know one another.

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