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The Beginner's Goodbye Hardcover – 5 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (5 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701187190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701187194
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 52,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Breathing Lessons and other bestselling novels, including The Accidental Tourist, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, A Patchwork Planet, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage and Digging to America. In 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English'. Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore where her novels are set.

Product Description


The work of an artist at the peak of her powers... a brilliantly observed and mercifully unsentimental examination of the emotional arc of grief (Sarah Vine The Times)

Tyler strips away layers of everyday life to reveal the abyss of pain underneath but does so with such skill and sparkling wit it makes this a real celebration of life (Vanessa Berridge Daily Express)

This is what Tyler does better than almost any contemporary writer. She peers at the forgotten areas of the everyday, the bits that are hard to pinpoint, yet make up the bulk of our relationships. And this, ultimately, is why she is such a satisfying writer: she looks at people - at life - from the inside out (Lucy Atkins Sunday Times)

A simple, subtle and really honest account of how one man, Aaron, deals with the darkly comic death of his dumpy, clever and brilliant wife Dorothy... I finished it in one sitting (Alix Walker Stylist)

A perfectly judged and brilliantly executed novel of loss and recovery (Woman & Home)

Book Description

An Anne Tyler gem: a story about love, about marriage, about two ordinary people so intertwined they cannot be separated - even by death ...

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started reading Anne Tyler's books about 15 years ago when she was recommended by two of my favourite authors at the time, Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle. I fell in love with her understated, engaging style and quickly worked my way through her entire back-catalogue. Regretfully her more recent releases have not been amongst my favourites and I've occasionally re-read a few of the old classics to remind myself how good she could be. Thankfully, her latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, (actually at 198 pages I`m not sure if it's more of novella?) has restored my faith and in my opinion it's definitely a case of `small but perfectly formed`.

When we meet our narrator Aaron Woolcott his wife Dorothy has recently died in a freak accident. I warmed to Aaron from the start and by the end of the book he was up there with my two favourite male Tyler characters - Macon from The Accidental Tourist and Barnaby Gaitlin from A Patchwork Planet. Always a bit of an outsider due to the deformed arm and leg he was left with after a childhood illness, Aaron has constantly had to battle against the patronage and condescension of others, as well as the mollycoddling inflicted by his over-protective mother and sister. When he meets Dorothy, a dour, practical woman who "never saw the point of socialising" something clicks between them and their marriage, if not exactly made in heaven, certainly seems to work for the two of them.

Dorothy's death when an oak tree falls on their sun porch leaves a gaping hole in Aaron's life (not to mention his roof), and when she starts appearing to him in random places it brings him a strange sort of comfort.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. P. Wright TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aaron Woolcott's wife, Dorothy, has been killed in a bizarre accident at their home. The story starts with him noting the strange reactions of other people when they see her with him some months after her death. Mostly they refuse to look at her and concentrate their attention on him. Aaron finds this odd but presumes that they are embarrassed or don't know how to behave. He wonders why Dorothy comes to visit him, but doesn't like to ask in case she stops coming.

The book takes us slowly through the aftermath of Dorothy's death giving us glimpses of their relationship in Aaron's flashbacks as he tries to cope with life. His family, neighbours and acquaintances all rally round to support him in his bereavement, but he is stoical and, while attempting not to hurt them, rebuffs their help. Gradually his view of the past unravels and a resolution is reached.

The widow/widower receiving comfort from their dead partner has been covered before in films such as Truly, Madly, Deeply, but the emotional element has been pared down to the minimum in Aarons's aloof and reticent narration. Yet, thanks to Tyler's expert handling, we learn a lot about Aaron, much more than he thinks he is telling us.

The crits on the cover of this book call it a comedy and in the purely academic meaning of the word - any story in which the main characters manage to avert an impending disaster and have a happy ending, in other words the opposite of tragedy - it is. It is also not without humour but, I think, it is a profoundly serious book dealing with a very difficult subject and it does that beautifully without sounding any false notes. Although the anguish, grief and disassociation from life that the death of a lover causes are accurately and painfully expressed, the book is upbeat and life affirming. So, not a laugh a minute, but a true comedy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Ang on 5 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A short, poignant account of a young widower, Aaron, who struggles to come to terms with his wife Dorothy's death in a freak accident, when she begins to appear as if alive and well at short intervals, and in unexpected places, like outside their house where she died, or at a mall sitting companionably next to Aaron. These visits become more prolonged and eventually she speaks, as if to tell him something important about their relationship.

In her usual way of imbibing her characters with distinctive traits, Tyler's protagonist, Aaron suffers from a disability brought on by a childhood illness that affects his gait, requiring a brace and a cane, which he has never quite gotten used to relying on, while Dorothy is fiercely independent, forthright, and an atypically "unnurturing" doctor. They are as mismatched as chalk and cheese, and Dorothy's reappearance forces Aaron to work through his grief to honestly confront the imperfections of their marriage, without the rose-tinted memories the bereaved tend to cherish.

Of course initially, he insists: "I liked to dwell on these shortcomings now. It wasn't only that I was wondering why they had ever annoyed me. I was hoping they would annoy me still, so that I could stop missing her", which casts these visitations in a romantic light. However, he acknowledges later: "Then why was our marriage so unhappy? / Because it was unhappy. I will say that now. Or it was difficult, at least. Out of sync. Uncoordinated. It seemed we just never quite got the hang of being a couple the way other people did. We should have taken lessons or something; that's how I felt.
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