Fiction review: ‘The Beginner’s Goodbye’ by Anne Tyler

Posted November 29, 2015 by PaulineMRoss in Review / 0 Comments

Aaron is a man with a withered arm and leg after a childhood illness. His family and friends fuss around him, but he won’t be cosseted, and has become a curmudgeonly adult, grumpy at everyone and unable to interact sociably with the world. He works in the family’s small publishing business, a vanity press which also publishes a series of how-to books, The Beginner’s (whatever). Aaron marries a woman just as socially inept as he is, and when she dies suddenly, he begins to encounter her ghost. The plot, such as it is, involves Aaron coming to terms with Dorothy’s death, and beginning to move on with his life (hence the title).

I found this book a very easy read. There’s quite a bit of humour, and, as something of a curmudgeon myself, I very much enjoyed Aaron’s snappishness and passive resistance. With his house damaged by a fallen tree (which also killed his wife), he simply continues to live in the undamaged part until the rain collapses the roof and forces him out. Even then, he has to be pushed into getting things fixed. To say the story is flimsy would be a gross understatement – there really isn’t any plot to speak of, the whole premise is Aaron’s quirky character – but it still flowed along quite gently to its resolution.

An odd sort of book, very readable and entertaining, but it left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Like meringue, it looks and tastes good, but isn’t very substantial. Still, I enjoyed it as a lightweight, very quick read (I read it from cover to cover during a single short-haul flight). Four stars.


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