I love the way Anne Tyler looks at life and the humor in her books. She can write about serious topics with such tenderness and compassion. The Beginner’s Goodbye looks at the topic of grief through the eyes of Aaron, a middle-aged man, whose wife dies unexpectedly when a tree falls on their home. Aaron tries to return to a normal life and adjust to being single but he finds such difficulties with relationships. Interactions with friends are now so different. He is uncomfortable with his closest friends and neighbors as they extend their sympathy and help. He moves in with his sister who lives in their parent’s home and totally ignores repairs on his home. Finally when the ceiling falls in and he can’t get in the front door he calls a contractor, Gil Bryan. This man, with his own problems, shows compassion for the grief that Aaron is going through and begins a relationship with both Aaron and his sister, Nandina.
The first sentence of the book begins, “The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.” Throughout the story his former wife Dorothy appears and speaks to Aaron as he finds his way through life without her. As Aaron remembers the quirky, problematic relationship he and Dorothy shared, Dorothy reappears to help him work out the regret. This isn’t a depressing book at all, although I found very poignant instances Aaron finally ends this chapter of his life and is able to say the final goodbye reminding all of us to tackle the unfinished business of love.