The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Knopf • $24.95 • ISBN 9780307957276
Published April 3
Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler’s 19th novel, The Beginner’s Goodbye, is a subtle story of process—a husband’s grieving process after the sudden death of his wife, his thoughts as he remains almost stationary in the process of saying goodbye.
Aaron and Dorothy’s marriage was totally unexceptional and perfectly acceptable, but the entrance of death into their story makes it singular. Many months after a tree falls and kills Dorothy, she returns from beyond the grave. She and Aaron pick up some of the arguments and discussions that had been left unfinished. Her return does for Aaron what months of keeping busy failed to do—help him actually move on.
I would call it minimalist were it not for the thump of magical realism, like in this scene where Dorothy makes an appearance:
I was rinsing vegetables for my supper, and I turned from the sink to reach for a towel, and I saw Dorothy.
“You’re here,” I said.
She was standing next to me, so close that she’d had to step back a bit to give me room when I turned. She wore one of her plain white shirts and her usual black pants, and her expression was grave and considering—her head cocked to one side and her eyebrows raised.
“I thought you might never come again,” I said.
She appeared unsurprised by this, merely nodding and continuing to study me, so that it seemed I’d been right to worry.
“Was it the cookies?” I asked. “Were you upset that I ate Peggy’s cookies?”
“You should have told me you liked cookies,” she said, and I don’t know why I’d ever doubted that she actually spoke on these visits, because her voice was absolutely real—low and somewhat flat, very level in tone.
I said, “What? I don’t like cookies!”
“I could have baked you cookies,” she said.
Are you an Anne Tyler fan? Have you checked out her newest yet? What do you think?
The Beginner’s Goodbye is one of our 30 most anticipated books of 2012. Check out the full list.