Anne Tyler – The Beginner’s Goodbye
Anne Tyler is one of my favourite authors and I was more than pleasantly surprised to see her latest book in the Returns Trolley at my most recent visit to the library.
The protagonist is 35-year-old Aaron Woolcott, who works at a small family-run publishing business which publishes, among other things, a series of books to help people out – Beginners – with various life skills. Aaron’s wife, Dorothy, was killed in a freak accident and the book deals with his attempts at returning to a normal life and at the same time having to contend with visits from her. In some ways, the motifs in this book reminded me of The Accidental Tourist. Both protagonists have to cope with the loss of a family member (through very unusual circumstances) and both work in self-help books.
The Beginner’s Goodbye has all the typical Anne Tyler elements: Baltimorean setting, protagonist experiences loss of some kind and the fallout from that. One thing that stood out to me, though, was that this was written from a first-person perspective. I found this interesting as many of her books have been in the third person.
After reading it, I have to say I was a little disappointed. For one thing, I was greatly surprised to find out how young Aaron Woolcott was. The blurb on the jacket described him as ‘middle-aged’, but in reading (and doing some maths) I worked out that he was only 35 – what I would hardly call ‘middle-aged’. This did not compute well, because Aaron behaved as if he were much older.
Most of the characters in the book, while great care was taken to describe their physical features and other attributes, were not as well-developed as I would have liked. Thus, it was difficult to relate to them.
I’m glad I read The Beginner’s Goodbye but have difficulty recommending it wholeheartedly.