Genre: Literary/Psychological Fiction
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday
Pub. Date: April 3, 2012
If you are like me, walking into and a used book store is like walking into a goldmine. Breathing in the old books’ smell is a heavenly experience. As is, touching the pages. I decided to buy three books by my favorite authors whose names begin with some version of Ann. This is part of the fun. I bought Ann Patchett, Anna Quindlen, and Anne Tyler. This review will focus on Anne Tyler’s novel “The Beginner’s Goodbye.”
Aaron Woolcott, the hero and narrator works for a family publishing company that is a vanity press. They publish a series of beginners’ guidebooks. There is “The Beginner’s Wine Guide,” “The Beginner’s Book of Dog Training,” and so on, which explains the book’s title. Their books will make you think of the “Dummies” books. You will laugh out loud when one of them proposes to add “The Beginner’s Menopausal Wife.” It reminded me of the old “Dick Van Dyke” television show when Sally and Buddy were the very funny TV writers.
Aaron has a paralyzed right arm and leg, and a bad stutter. He wears a brace, uses a cane, and drives a modified car, although he hates all these signs of his limitations. He also hates how his sister attempts to take care of him as if he were not a grown man. This is why he deliberately chose a non-maternal woman to be his wife. The marriage was like most marriages with the expected ups and downs. Early on, the wife dies and that is the beginning of the real story.
His wife returns from the dead to have conversations with him. Arron believes that everyone in town can see and hear her too, which of course they cannot since she is a figment of his fragile mind. Did you ever see the movie “Lars and the Real Girl,” starring Ryan Gosling? If you did, you will get what I mean when I say the Gosling character strongly resembles our hero. Others may think he is psychotic but, in reality, he is a confused man dealing with grief in his own unusual way.
Aaron is written as an emotionally vivid, depressed character who makes you just want to give him a big hug. Tyler’s expertise allows her to write an intelligent, literary, and still humorous ghost story. Her writing is reminiscent of Joyce Carol Oats. The best I can do to explain myself is that they are both superb literary writers who write in a variety of styles and genres. Hope that makes sense. If not, you will just have to read one of both their books. In the meantime, I strongly recommend “The Beginner’s Goodbye.”
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