The Beginner's Goodbye: A Chevron Ross Book Review

By March 1, 2024No Comments

If you haven’t guessed from its title, The Beginner’s Goodbye is about grieving, and the painful process of letting go. As with all her novels, Anne Tyler carries us through it with the unpretentious humanistic skills that make her one of America’s greatest novelists.

Aaron Woolcott’s life revolves around two things: his wife Dorothy and the vanity publishing business he inherited from his father. From the start he and Dorothy are a mismatch of age and personality, but his infatuation and persistence make for an interesting courtship. Dorothy’s death occurs in the midst of a quarrel, leaving him to second-guess himself about things he wishes he’d done, and others he wishes he hadn’t. His turmoil spills out upon friends and coworkers eager to help him move on, thus deepening his misery.

Meanwhile, Aaron struggles to concentrate on his clients, whose pathetic books need all the editorial help they can get. Their themes and titles are amusing, yet symbolic of the unresolved issues churning within him.

The other people in Aaron’s life drift through the pages like passing clouds, so endearing that it pains the reader to see him take them for granted. I am always amazed at how deftly Anne Tyler sketches supporting characters into her narratives, the effortless way she has of making them seem like familiar friends.

Anyone who has lost a close friend or relative will understand Aaron’s journey toward a resolution of his grief. But this is not a gloomy novel. Rather, it is a love story filled with the complex emotions we all experience at the unexpected turns our lives take.

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