Posts Tagged ‘The Beginner’s Goodbye’

You may have heard that Anne Tyler includes a ghost in her new novel, The Beginner’s Goodbye. The ghost is Dorothy, a short middle-aged radiologist killed when a tree falls on her house one August. Some months later, she appears to her grieving husband Aaron, a 36-year-old editor at a small Baltimore publisher that specializes in beginners’ how-to guides on various subjects. Aaron first met no-nonsense Dorothy while editing ‘The Beginner’s Cancer” and was impressed when she came right out and asked him about his crippled arm.

Aaron doesn’t believe in ghosts, but here’s Dorothy showing up at his side as he walks down the street or browses in the farmers’ market. These brief encounters cause him to reflect on his so-called happy marriage and how often he and Dorothy were out of sync. And so Dorothy’s ghost begins to ease him out of the suspended animation of his grief, which has landed him back living with his bossy older sister in the family house.

It’s a sweet, slight story written with Tyler’s seemingly effortless grace and charm. But it’s so thin as to be transparent, especially when compared to such Tyler novels as The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. The main characters are the usual endearing oddballs, although I found it easier to believe in Dorothy than obtuse Aaron, whose narrative voice seems that of a much-older man.

In the end, I was smiling, but I also felt bereft. It’s as if I invited Tyler over for a substantive meal, and she just dropped by for tea and sympathy.

Open Book: I bought a digital copy of Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye (Knopf) for my Nook Tablet and my original Nook, which my mom is using. We always read Anne Tyler.

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