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on 5 September 2013
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."

Tyler retains her distinctive style of using deceptively simple prose that resonates deep and profound truths in this novel, but for some reason, I could not get a clear mental picture of Aaron, and pictured a slightly doddering 60 year old, rather than the 30ish he was meant to be, which is a sore point with me, because one of Tyler's strengths is her vivid characterisation. At some point, Aaron's colleagues and sister at the publishing firm inherited from his dad, blended into a noisy blur, and at pivotal points in the novel, I found I could not distinguish between two of the women, Irene and Peggy, and had to revisit earlier mentions of them. Perhaps I wasn't reading closely enough, but this novel still did not match up (in my mind) to her other works like "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant", "Earthly Possessions", or "Saint Maybe", just to name three from her impressive oeuvre of work.
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on 7 June 2013
I am Anne Tylers biggest fan, I love her books and this is another book I would recommend to everyone I Know. Annes books are warm, funny and sometimes sad, always brilliantly written. She writes about American family life. If your reading this review try Anne Tylers books , you wont be disappointed!
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on 18 August 2017
In my opinion, not the best Anne Tyler.
An easy read but will not read it again,
Main character Aaron self centred and self absorbed so did not have much empathy
for him.
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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. It's also an escape from the well-meaning friends and family who are rallying round with offers of food and social engagements and, inevitably, misguided matchmaking advice.

For me this was vintage Tyler, quirky and endearing with some beautifully observed characters and situations. Although it was a fairly quick read and it might not be frantic or exciting enough for some readers, I was completely absorbed in it and I'm so pleased that one of my favourite authors has produced such a little gem.
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on 18 May 2017
Lovely book, A T gives us detail . Ordinary lives shown to be extraordinary.
Sorry to reach the last page.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 14 April 2012
Aaron is in his early 30s and works as an editor at a company that publishes "Beginners Guides" to a variety of subjects. When the book opens, he has recently lost his wife of twelve years in a freak accident. The book is about him coming to terms with her death - gradually moving through shock and denial to acceptance - and getting to see their marriage for what it was, both the good and the not so good.

Like many of Tyler's novels, this is a very considered piece of writing that draws you in slowly. It's a short novel (just under 200 pages), so it doesn't take long to read, but its simplicity is deceptive. Every sentence has been thought out and its genuinely moving. I felt for Aaron, who's a little bit hopeless really and who seems older than his actual years. He reminded me of Barnaby in A Patchwork Planet, probably my favourite of her books. I never truly warmed to Tyler's last couple of books, but with this, she's completely back in form.
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on 25 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted."

With this opening sentence Anne Tyler plunges us into Aaron Woolcott's new life as a widower, one in which his grief is both assuaged and complicated by the appearance of his dead wife Dorothy. Despite this avowedly supernatural start, most of "The Beginner's Goodbye" deals with the more earthbound details of Aaron's life both pre- and post-widowhood.

Tyler is always enjoyable company and the world of her latest novel is a familiar one. With grace and humour she introduces us to Aaron, his sister Nandina, and the colleagues and clients of their family vanity publishing firm. My favourite character was Dorothy, a no-nonsense doctor who feels unable to be a stereotypically nurturing wife and is thus seemingly a perfect match for the fiercely self-sufficient Aaron.

This is a short novel and at times it did feel slight and somewhat superficial; however, at other times, Tyler's simple prose delivered real jolts of complex emotion. I would recommend "The Beginner's Goodbye" to fans and newcomers alike.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A lovely gentle and absorbing story of the dearly departed ghost of Dorothy staying with, or rather returning to, her loving husband, Aaron. Written in a totally believable way, this is a really enjoyable story with characters that have a normality about them which has the effect of making you feel this could happen to me or someone I know. Although this is a book about bereavement and how Aaron's friends react after his wife's death, it is not a hugely sad or morose story and is more of a deep love and missing his best friend. I didn't quite expect the ending to be as it is but does show how time, if not quite heals, does allow a person to let go and move on.

Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer prize winner and writes in a very confident and accomplished way and is a real pleasure to read. If you like this or similar stories The Guardian Angel's Journal and My Name is Memory are also great reads.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Once again Anne Tyler writes a seemingly effortless tale of slightly off-beat characters inhabiting a slightly off-beat world. Aaron loses his wife in a freak accident then begins to see her again - but this is not a supernatural tale of ghosts and ghouls. This is a poignant, elegantly written meditation on marriage and what happens during and after (once one partner is bereaved).

Anne Tyler seems to inhabit her characters like no other writer I know of, her novels are short on plot but high on detailed characterisation. The only slight niggle I have is that Aaron is only about 35 but comes across as someone much older - whether this is intentional or a habit Anne Tyler has of writing abut older people I am not sure.
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on 25 September 2013
Anne Tyler writes about difficult subjects with a light touch, and although this might not be to everyones's taste, to me, the sheer pleasure of the reading experience makes up for any slight irritation at the quirkiness. One of the critical reviews is entitled 'an ordinary bereavement' but I think that the ordinariness of Aaron's experience is what makes this book special.
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