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The Beginner's Goodbye Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 3, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307957276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307957276
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (337 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2012: "The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted." So begins Anne Tyler's new novel, which documents the days of Aaron Woolcott after the unexpected loss of his wife, Dorothy. And as arresting as the first sentence is, it's also a bit worrying. So many clichés could follow. Will Aaron resolve his grief through poetic moonlit walks with the apparition of his lost wife? Thankfully, this is Anne Tyler. And the ghost of Dorothy, like all Tyler's characters, has a kind of rich, eccentric depth that sits opposite to the expected. Aaron's recovery after his wife's death conveys all the subtle hallmarks of Tyler's style, where a flawed man must learn how to do a very difficult thing--say a final goodbye. --Ben Moebius

Review

“An absolute charmer of a novel about grief, healing, and the transcendent power of love . . . With sparkling prose and undeniable charm, Tyler gets at the beating heart of what it means to lose someone, to say goodbye, and to realize how we are all, perhaps, always ultimate beginners in the complex business of life . . . A dazzling meditation on marriage, community, and redemption.” Boston Globe

“A pleasure to read . . . Classic Tyler . . . The wonder of Anne Tyler is how consistently clear-eyed and truthful she remains about the nature of families and especially marriage.” Los Angeles Times

“Like a modern Jane Austen, Tyler creates small worlds where she depicts in minutest detail the intimate bonds of friendship and family.” USA Today
 
“Anne Tyler is one of our national treasures, and The Beginner’s Goodbye puts all of her skills on display: her warmth and wit, her generous embrace of her flawed characters, her clear-eyed observations about the inner workings of a marriage and the enduring bonds between brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.” —Jennifer Weiner
 
The Beginner’s Goodbye is the purest distillation of an Anne Tyler novel imaginable.” San Francisco Chronicle

“Anne Tyler has no peer. Her books just keep getting better and better. In The Beginner’s Goodbye, I was surprised, intrigued, and delighted at every turn.”  —Anita Shreve

“Anne Tyler never disappoints . . . Her insights about life, love, aging, marriage, siblings, grief, and unexpected happiness grow richer and deeper with each passing year and book.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Over five decades of exuberant shape-shifting across the fictional landscape, Anne Tyler has cut the steady swath of a literary stalwart, writing novel after novel whose most memorable characters inhabit a cosmos all their own . . . What makes each story distinctive is the particular way its characters rebel against hereditary confines, cope with fateful crises, or forge relationships with new acquaintances who rock their world . . . Once again, Tyler exhibits her genius for the incisive, savory portrayal of marriage.” —Julia Glass, New York Times Book Review 
 
“This is what Tyler does better than almost any contemporary writer. She peers at the forgotten areas of the everyday, the bits that are hard to pinpoint, yet make up the bulk of our lives and relationships. And this, ultimately, is why she is such a satisfying writer: she looks at people—at life—from the inside out. This is a book not just about grief, but about hope . . . The Beginner’s Goodbye is diverting, certainly, but also deeply rewarding. There is, in short, no guilt in the pleasure of a new Tyler. We can only hope for many, many more.” Sunday Times (UK)

“Beautifully intricate. By the exquisitely romantic emotional climax, Aaron’s ordinary life has bloomed into an opera.” Entertainment Weekly
 
“Its insights will keep you up nights.  . . . Ranks high in the hierarchy of Tyler’s works. And what a lineup that is.” Chicago Tribune
 
“Warm, smart, deliciously written.” More magazine
 
“As always, Pulitzer Prize winner Tyler brilliantly explores a stunning range of human emotion, poignantly considering the challenges of death while creating lovable characters whose foibles capture our hearts. Essential reading.” Library Journal
 
“One of the things that makes Tyler’s work so radiant is that she seems to believe that people are inherently good and that, thanks to that goodness, ordinary lives can contain moments of great beauty, dignity, and hope. The Beginner’s Goodbye has all three . . . [Told] with characteristic warmth, sympathy and wisdom.” Daily Telegraph (UK)

“A scintillating gem of a novel . . . Exceptionally lithe and sparkling . . . A funny, sweet, and wise tale of lost and found love.” Booklist (starred)
 
“Elegant . . . An uplifting tale of love and forgiveness. By the end of this wonderful book, you’ve lived the lives and loves of these characters in the best possible way.” Publishers Weekly (starred, Pick of the Week)
 
“Anne Tyler writes about real life, and in common with the finest fiction writers, such as William Trevor and Alice Munro, she does not engage with fantasy, as she is well aware that the ordinary is sufficiently bizarre . . . She is effortless, wise yet never knowing, and establishes a sense of having thought deeply about the given facts of any story . . . She is also sympathetic without being sentimental . . . Yet again she has articulated the supreme difficulties of human communication in a calmly insightful exploration of love and truth, grief and reality.” Irish Times 
 

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

The book is a fast read - about 200 pages.
E.B. Bristol
The characters seemed a bit one-dimensional to me - I didn't get the good, old feeling of being in love with them as I do in her earlier books.
eckief
Anne Tyler's latest short novel THE BEGINNER'S GOODBYE has all the elements we have come to associate with this writer's great stories.
H. F. Corbin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Pasiphae on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have been reading Ann Tyler since 1979, and this is one of her best, a gentle portrait of grief and longing.

The plot synopsis is simple: Aaron's wife Dorothy dies, and as he works through his grief, he thinks he sees her now and then. That's really all there is to it. The charm of the book lies in its ability to mine the richness of everyday life for moments of pain, humor and illumination.

Aaron, a man with physical handicaps, has been fending off the care of others for most of his life. As a result he's had a mostly regular life. When he meets Dorothy, a stolid, socially clueless doctor eight or nine years his senior, he falls in immediate, dumbstruck love. I just couldn't get enough of how Aaron loved his wife, I adored his descriptions of her every little detail, the way he cherished up her looks, her plain wardrobe, her untidy ways and her blunt manner of expression. It made his pain so very real.

Aaron's life is full of whimsical, endearing people. He really is beloved, even though he prefers to push people away rather than admit to his pain. Having watched a widower work through the loss of a wife, I recognized Aaron's avoidance, his business for business's sake, the way he worked much harder at denying his grief than processing it. This is realistic, I think.

But of course, since this is an Anne Tyler book, he's going to work through it, because Tyler always gives her characters the room to change, learn, grow and find happiness. This is one of the reasons I love to read her. This is a spare little book, but it is fully realized and completely satisfying.

Very highly recommended.
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114 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Sophia VINE VOICE on March 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aaron is a thirtysomething book publisher. Disabled after a childhood illness, he grew up resisting the well-meaning, overprotective urges of his strong-willed mother and sister. Then, he meets Dorothy, a doctor, who has no interest in coddling him. They fall in love and establish a warm, workable marriage - until, one day, the unthinkable happens. A tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed.

Aaron struggles to absorb this crushing loss, sometimes regaining a measure of equanimity, sometimes brought to his knees with the sheer force of his grief and despair. Then, one day, Dorothy comes to visit, bringing comfort, but, also, an additional raft of worries. Is she real? Is he losing it? If she is real, why did she come back?

This is a gentle, sweet, realistic look at the grieving process, including both the stabbing, unbearable pain and the small-but-important things that can sneak up and hit unexpectedly. Aaron is a quirky and engaging, but also somewhat prickly and exasperating, especially in his interactions with those closest to him.

A few things I noticed that jarred slightly - Aaron does not seem thirty-five to me, more like fifty. Also, although the story is set in Baltimore, as another reviewer noted, it has a decidedly small-town feel. Some of the characters, like Peggy, seemed to be a bit "old-school" for their (presumed) age brackets. For instance, secretaries these days tend to do much more coordination and administration than caretaking. I was also mildly surprised at a small press that appeared to be doing well, without a mention of the recession. It felt like I was visiting a modern version of Brigadoon, with timeless characters and ageless problems. This is not necessarily a drawback, just something I noticed.

This is a refreshing, readable take on one of life's most important issues, one that I plan to keep and reread for many years to come. Recommended.
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68 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Mechlinski VINE VOICE on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aaron Woolcott, a thirty-something editor at a family-run publishing company, has just lost his wife in a freak accident. Naturally, those closest to him -- his older sister Nandina, the handful of colleagues at Woolcott Publishing, and a few random friends -- reach out to him, fearing his emotional and physical deterioration. Although he's always felt he's been able to manage just fine, Aaron has a disabled arm and leg, thanks to illness as a toddler; and as he and his sister are the only surviving members of the immediate family, they've tended to be a bit reclusive. Now, as Aaron insists upon remaining in his nearly destroyed home all alone, the people in his life have reason to worry.

As Aaron struggles to cope and to adjust to his new life, he suddenly begins to see his dead wife Dorothy appearing. There is no pattern to her visits, making Aaron long to have her with him all the more. During these times, the two talk and discuss their life together. All the while, Aaron wonders what others see, and what they must think.

Having read all of Tyler's books to date, I feel qualified to compare this latest with its predecessors. Overall, while the characters are richly written and the premise holds promise, the story itself just didn't feel all that intriguing to me. There have been numerous works of fiction about people who lose their spouses, and this one just didn't stand out too keenly in my mind.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on March 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For Anne Tyler fans (among whom I count myself), the arrival of a new novel of hers is a major literary event. Tyler's way of creating wonderfully quirky characters and placing them in universal life situations is probably what attracts so many of us to her work. Her fans know not to expect lots of action or overly complicated plots from her; the woman writes beautiful novels about people and what makes them tick. She has done it again with Aaron Woolcott and The Beginner's Goodbye.

Aaron Woolcott and his spinster sister, Nandina, run Woolcott Publishing, a company with two basic sources of revenue: what, before the advent of self-published e-books, was called "vanity publishing" and a long series of books for "beginners" that are even more dumbed-down than the real-world "for dummies" series that is so popular. Aaron has recently lost his wife in a tragic, fluke accident and is struggling to say goodbye. He badly needs to feel a sense of closure but, because Dorothy died almost immediately after an argument with him, Aaron is too filled with regrets to let her go. Thus, the title of the book.

The novel's self-description emphasizes how Aaron begins to see Dorothy at random intervals and places. Sometimes she speaks to him, sometimes she does not. Strangely, others often see Dorothy by Aaron's side, but they instinctively focus on Aaron and never acknowledge Dorothy's presence - even, it seems, to themselves. Surprisingly enough, despite the book blurb's emphasis on it, Dorothy's return plays a much smaller role in the story than one might expect.

The Beginner's Goodbye is about how one man comes to terms with his grief. I suspect that all of us handle grief somewhat differently and that we do not truly know ourselves until we are tested this way.
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