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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

LOSS PORTRAYED WITH FINE STROKES -- A REVIEW

Aaron Woolcott is a middle-aged man whose life is pretty ordinary, even considering his bum leg and arm. Safely ensconced in the family "vanity publishing" business, he seemingly plods along until one day, quite unexpectedly, he meets Dorothy, a doctor; she becomes his wife within four months.

As the book opens, a freak accident ends Dorothy's life, and here is where we begin to really know Aaron and Dorothy, following along as Aaron recalls bits and pieces of their life together. These memories are seemingly triggered by Dorothy's "appearances" to Aaron: on the sidewalk in front of their house; in the farmer's market; outside a window here or there.

With each "visitation," Aaron begins to deal with unfinished business between the two of them.

As with all of Tyler's previous work, The Beginner's Goodbye shows the detailed idiosyncrasies of each character and paints them with fine strokes, making them truly themselves; in this way, the author helps us connect to them. Characteristics that might seem unappealing, but are actually so endearing in their very ordinariness that we want to curl up and get to know the characters better.

In this section, we see Dorothy through Aaron's eyes, as he reminisces fondly:

"Oh, all those annoying habits of hers that I used to chafe at—the trail of crumpled tissues and empty coffee mugs she left in her wake, her disregard for the finer points of domestic order and comfort. Big deal!

"Her tendency to make a little too much of her medical degree when she was meeting new people. `I'm Dr. Rosales,' she would say, instead of `I'm Dorothy,' so you could almost see the white coat even when she wasn't wearing one. (Not that she actually met new people all that often. She had never seen the purpose in socializing).

"And those orthopedic-type shoes she had favored: they had struck me, at times, as self-righteous. They had seemed a deliberate demonstration of her seriousness, her high-mindedness—a pointed reproach to the rest of us."

Then there are the other characters, just as ordinary and a bit quirky, like Aaron's sister Nandina, who has a tendency to hover, trying to make him into a more sociable being. And Peggy, the secretary at the publishing company, girly, yet nurturing, she sometimes seems annoying to Aaron...until things start to change.

I couldn't put this short, but totally engrossing book down, reading it without interruptions. It's the kind of book I like to quote from, revisiting the little tidbits that make it unique. A definite five star read for me, and recommended for all Anne Tyler fans, as well as those who enjoy characters who spring alive on the page.

6 comments:

  1. For some reason, this review tugged at my heartstrings. Thanks, Laurel. The book sounds wonderful.

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  2. Thanks, Joylene...this book brought up many emotions for me; I'm glad I could convey some of them in the review.

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  3. I normally avoid books like this as most I find to be overly emotional and dramatic but this one sounds quite interesting. Thanks for the review

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  4. Yes, I think Anne Tyler's books manage to portray richly drawn characters we can care about without excess emotion.

    Thanks for stopping by, Squirrel Queen.

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  5. This one is definitely going on the to-read list!

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  6. Thanks for stopping by, Carrie...I really enjoy Tyler's work, and this one was so poignant.

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