My score: 3*
This book, A Beginner’s Goodbye, was a pot-luck Secret Santa gift received at my Book Club’s Christmas dinner. I was quite excited to read a novel by Anne Tyler, having not read her yet and heard good reviews from friends who had.
I read this relatively short novel (272 pages) in a rather bitty fashion, while completing an entirely different book with my Book Club in between; perhaps, also because this is not an entirely happy story.
The main character, Aaron, describes his journey through the unexpected loss of his wife in first person. The characters are thoroughly drawn and Aaron’s love for his wife is touching as she is portrayed in many ways as quirky, an oddball, even difficult to love. Aaron himself clearly finds it easier to pretend everything is fine, than accept the loving human kindness offered by friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues, so in that respect, they appear to have been well-matched. There is a roughness, an unhappy irritation that permeates their relationship from his first mention of her in his story.
Anne Tyler writes about reality so don’t read this for escapism. It was refreshing to read a love story (in essence, that is what it was, though it honestly didn’t feel like it!) between two people that weren’t in the conventional romantic hero and heroine mould. I nonetheless found it hard work, completing most of the novel during the “read any good books lately?” days of the 2020 pandemic. That said, Ms Tyler is clearly a thorough and accomplished writer, her language is accessible and she is not afraid of exploring the darker shades of her characters and their life choices and the consequences.
Despite the happy twist at the end, I struggle to give this four stars, not because it wasn’t a well formed story but because in all honesty I can’t really say it was an enjoyable read and I do like to enjoy a story, even if it leaves me sobbing uncontrollably! Which this didn’t, so something I can’t quite put my finger on failed to engage me. At this strange time in our lives I think I just need to read something lighter and more upbeat.
I have just been given Redeeming Love, a bestselling Christian novel by Francine Rivers as a birthday gift. Faith fiction is not my usual choice, but perhaps this will be more uplifting…
What are you reading during lockdown wherever you are at this strange time?
I’d love to read your recommendations! Do please share in the comments below.
Disclaimer: If you should choose to purchase a copy of this book yourself, using the Amazon link above, I will receive a small commission that will help me fund Em’s Life After 40. Thank you and keep reading!