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The Beginner's Goodbye

Cover of The Beginner's Goodbye

The Beginner's Goodbye

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Pulitzer Prize--winning author Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel about loss and recovery, pierced throughout with her humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron grew up fending off a sister who constantly wanted to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, an outspoken, independent young woman, she's like a breath of fresh air. He marries her without hesitation, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. Aaron works at his family's vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy's unexpected appearances from the dead--in their house, on the roadway, in the market--help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. Gradually, Aaron discovers that maybe for this beginner there is indeed a way to say goodbye.

"Like a modern Jane Austen, Tyler creates small worlds [depicting] the intimate bonds of friendship and family."--USA Today

"An absolute charmer of a novel . . . With sparkling prose . . . [Anne] Tyler gets at the beating heart of what it means to lose someone, to say goodbye."--The Boston Globe

"Classic Tyler . . . The wonder of Anne Tyler is how consistently clear-eyed and truthful she remains about the nature of families and especially marriage."--Los Angeles Times

"Beautifully intricate . . . By the exquisitely romantic emotional climax [an] ordinary life has bloomed into an opera."--Entertainment Weekly

Don't miss the conversation between Anne Tyler and Robb Forman Dew at the back of the book.

Pulitzer Prize--winning author Anne Tyler gives us a wise, haunting, and deeply moving new novel about loss and recovery, pierced throughout with her humor, wisdom, and always penetrating look at human foibles.

Crippled in his right arm and leg, Aaron grew up fending off a sister who constantly wanted to manage him. So when he meets Dorothy, an outspoken, independent young woman, she's like a breath of fresh air. He marries her without hesitation, and they have a relatively happy, unremarkable marriage. Aaron works at his family's vanity-publishing business, turning out titles that presume to guide beginners through the trials of life. But when a tree crashes into their house and Dorothy is killed, Aaron feels as though he has been erased forever. Only Dorothy's unexpected appearances from the dead--in their house, on the roadway, in the market--help him to live in the moment and to find some peace. Gradually, Aaron discovers that maybe for this beginner there is indeed a way to say goodbye.

"Like a modern Jane Austen, Tyler creates small worlds [depicting] the intimate bonds of friendship and family."--USA Today

"An absolute charmer of a novel . . . With sparkling prose . . . [Anne] Tyler gets at the beating heart of what it means to lose someone, to say goodbye."--The Boston Globe

"Classic Tyler . . . The wonder of Anne Tyler is how consistently clear-eyed and truthful she remains about the nature of families and especially marriage."--Los Angeles Times

"Beautifully intricate . . . By the exquisitely romantic emotional climax [an] ordinary life has bloomed into an opera."--Entertainment Weekly

Don't miss the conversation between Anne Tyler and Robb Forman Dew at the back of the book.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted.We were strolling through Belvedere Square, for instance, on an early-­spring afternoon when we met our old next-­door neighbor, Jim Rust. "Well, what do you know," he said to me. "Aaron!" Then he noticed Dorothy beside me. She stood peering up at him with one hand shielding her forehead from the sun. His eyes widened and he turned to me again.

    I said, "How's it going, Jim?"

    Visibly, he pulled himself together. "Oh . . . great," he said. "I mean . . . or, rather . . . but of course we miss you. Neighborhood is not the same without you!"

    He was focusing on me alone--­specifically, on my mouth, as if I were the one who was talking. He wouldn't look at Dorothy. He had pivoted a few inches so as to exclude her from his line of vision.

    I took pity on him. I said, "Well, tell everybody hello," and we walked on. Beside me, Dorothy gave one of her dry chuckles.

    Other people pretended not to recognize either one of us. They would catch sight of us from a distance, and this sort of jolt would alter their expressions and they would all at once dart down a side street, busy-­busy, much to accomplish, very important concerns on their minds. I didn't hold it against them. I knew this was a lot to adjust to. In their position, I might have behaved the same way. I like to think I wouldn't, but I might have.

    The ones who made me laugh aloud were the ones who had forgotten she'd died. Granted, there were only two or three of those--­people who barely knew us. In line at the bank once we were spotted by Mr. von Sant, who had handled our mortgage application several years before. He was crossing the lobby and he paused to ask, "You two still enjoying the house?"

    "Oh, yes," I told him.

    Just to keep things simple.

    I pictured how the realization would hit him a few minutes later. Wait! he would say to himself, as he was sitting back down at his desk. Didn't I hear something about . . . ?

    Unless he never gave us another thought. Or hadn't heard the news in the first place. He'd go on forever assuming that the house was still intact, and Dorothy still alive, and the two of us still happily, unremarkably married.

    I had moved in by then with my sister, who lived in our parents' old place in north Baltimore. Was that why Dorothy came back when she did? She hadn't much cared for Nandina. She thought she was too bossy. Well, she was too bossy. Is. She's especially bossy with me, because I have a couple of handicaps. I may not have mentioned that. I have a crippled right arm and leg. Nothing that gets in my way, but you know how older sisters can be.

    Oh, and also a kind of speech hesitation, but only intermittently. I seldom even hear it, myself.

    In fact, I have often wondered what made Dorothy select the moment she did to come back. It wasn't immediately after she died, which is when you might expect. It was months and months later. Almost a year. Of course I could have just asked her, but somehow, I don't know, the question seemed impolite. I can't explain exactly why.

    One time we ran into Irene Lance, from my office. She's the design person there. Dorothy and I were returning from lunch. Or I had had lunch, at least, and Dorothy had fallen into step beside me as I was walking back. And suddenly we noticed Irene approaching from St. Paul. Irene was hard to miss. She was always the most elegant woman on the street, not that that was much of a challenge in Baltimore. But she would have seemed elegant anywhere. She was tall and ice-­blonde, wearing a long, flowing coat that day...

About the Author-
  • Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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