Friday, February 8, 2013

Not a beginner's novel

Anne Tyler is not someone you would expect to write a paranormal romance. Her characters are always so down-to-earth, real people coping with realistic problems. And when she does dip a toe in paranormal waters in her 2012 novel The Beginner's Goodbye, a husband who repeatedly sees and converses with his late wife, killed when a tree falls on their house, seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Aaron, perhaps because of his physical handicaps, is a prickly young man, the sort of person who takes offense at just about anything anyone says to him. When he marries Dorothy, a plump physician who lacks what her patients might term "a good bedside manner," their marriage is filled with little spats over little things. Interestingly, when she appears to Aaron periodically after her death, the spats continue. They both have trouble showing, not to mention telling, how much each means to the other.

With his older sister, Aaron runs a publishing house that specializes in vanity titles, books that authors pay to have published, but also puts out an endless series of "Beginner's" books on the order of "Idiot's Guides." This provides us with the title of Tyler's novel, which basically just repeats the eternal truth that, if you have something to say to those you love, do it while they are still alive.

If there is not quite as much depth here as one finds in most Tyler novels, The Beginner's Goodbye is still an excellent story, skillfully told, that is likely to be remembered long after the final page is read.

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