Book Review: The Beginners Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is my comfort blanket read, except that doesn’t really do her justice.  As a ‘comfort blanket’ I simply mean that I love the opportunity to sink into the familiarity of an Anne Tyler novel.  I’ve read lots of Anne Tyler over the years and although I think I know what to expect when starting one, I am never disappointed.  Her easy but  insightful way of writing about the day to day and making something unusual out of the ordinary is always a pleasure.

This is the story of Aaron. Aaron works with his sister for his family’s small publishing company.  As a consequence of a child hood illness he has a paralysed arm and leg, he walks with a cane.  He marries Dorothy whom he met through research for a book his company is publishing.  She is a radiologist, a no-nonsense lady, eight years his senior.  Her manner is brusque and business like, she has no care for domesticity or ‘wifely ways’.  This suits Aaron who has lived his formative years with an over protective mother and sister. Dorothy is killed suddenly when a tree falls onto the porch of their house.  The house is destroyed and   Aaron is heartbroken.  Bereft without Dorothy, Aaron struggles with the concern of others, and the endless cakes and casseroles that appear unwanted on his doorstep.

“that was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found: your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with.”

Gradually Aaron begins to see Dorothy in the most unexpected places. One of my favourite lines comes when he sees Dorothy outside their house for the first time.

“I walked in a kind of trance, keeping my gait as nearly level as possible, as if Dorothy had been a liquid and now I was brimful of her and moving slowly, gently so as not to spill over”

These intermittent appearances enable them to start a conversation. They talk through their marriage bickering and falling out as misunderstandings emerge.  Aaron gradually sees the relationship for what it had been, the cracks that he had been previously blind to are opened up for him to laze upon.  He is awakened to the reality of what their marriage had been The day that Dorothy appears for the last time marks a turning point for Aaron. Through the loss and imagined reappearance of Dorothy, he begins to understand himself finds he is able to move on.

This is a story about coming to realization through grief. There are some beautifully worded lines in this novel that I suspect get close towards the overwhelming feelings following the loss of someone you love very much and the desperation that follows.

“My eyes worked so hard that they were practically knitting her, but even so she failed to appear”

If you have never read Anne Tyler, do give her a go.  Her books are always very manageable as they are relatively small compared with many of the weighty tomes that grace our book shops these days.  So even if your reading time is limited, you will soon find yourself reaching the final page fairly quickly.  She writes about family, relationships and the day to day meanderings of life, things that most of us will relate to. Anne Tyler’s novels will make you ponder life, and a bit of life pondering never hurt anyone.


  1. August 7, 2014 / 10:59 pm

    Yay, a new author for me. Thanks for the review!

    • August 8, 2014 / 9:25 am

      thanks Abbie. Always pleased to introduce new authors. Hope you enjoy Anne Tyler. There are plenty of novels to choose from

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