The Beginner’s Goodbye (2012), the 19th novel by our wonderful Anne Tyler, a writer who has given us fabulous books for years and years.
In her newest book, Tyler introduces us to Aaron Woolcott and his lack of coping, or near-coping, with the death of Dorothy, his wife. A tree falls on their house, a TV slams on top of her, and she is dead. Aaron is alone. Or, Aaron feels alone until Dorothy begins visiting him from the grave.
Aaron was physically handicapped when he was young, but still very capable of going about his daily business, although his sister thought he couldn’t do without her motherly care and advice. Sort of a stifling sister. But he eventually meets Dorothy, and his life begins. And then that life with Dorothy is suddenly over.
Tyler takes us down the road of grief. A look back on a life when a death occurs gives a glow and a shine to what we believe are the big things, might highlight some of the most insignificant things, and might even give us an unclear picture of exactly what that life was truly like. Which of those things are true and which are imagination at play or simply dreams and hopes? Is a person’s life all about perception, and a person doesn’t take the time to really perceive the truth until it is too late?
Tyler gives us a magnificent tale of Aaron’s version. He’s dealing with his grief the best he can, meandering through life until his feet are planted back on the ground. Or do they get planted back on the ground? Aaron’s trip through grief is fascinating and a little alarming, which only adds to the charm of the book. Tyler digs deep down into the inner feelings here, and does a fantastic job of telling us with her expertly placed words that continue throughout the book.
Maybe we could all be helped a little with a ghost along the roadway of life when our world is shattered.