So I just finished reading Anne Tyler's new novel, The Beginner's Goodbye. Which, considering that I started it while CRjr was napping, and now it's later the same night, isn't that bad. It is all of 198 pages long, and, yeah...Anne Tyler is starting to phone them in a little bit.
But you know what? I don't really mind. Even Anne Tyler phoning it in is better literature than that written by someone like, say, Jennifer Chiaverini (I shouldn't pick on Chiaverini, her books are fine, but I think I read in an interview once that she didn't consider her books formulaic, which, considering she writes a series of novels about quilters, struck me as kind of funny). I can't say I loved this Tyler novel, but I did enjoy it, and I felt kind of peaceful when it was done. I love it when a novel does that for me. At no time during the reading of this book did I feel completely divorced from the events and characters of the novel (the way I often do with current literary fiction).
The plot here is simple. A man, Aaron Woolcott, deals with the untimely accidental death of his wife. And that's it. If this was a Jodi Picoult novel, his wife would have died from some "ripped from the headlines disease"; if it was a Jonathan Franzen or Tom Perrotta novel not only would she have been dying from some disease, but the main character would have committed adultery before she died, because hey, that's what people in Middle America often do when something isn't quite working in their marriages.
Of course my favorite thing about the book was the character. I liked Aaron Woolcott, I liked his contractor Gil (who is totally unbelievable--no contractors are that helpful), and I loved Aaron's wife, Dorothy, who only appears as a) a ghost, and b) in flashbacks. They are not really fascinating characters, but they are characters with the normal round of very human problems, and that, of course, is what makes them interesting. And there were small revelations about all of the characters' relationships along the way--many of which surprised me. Even after all these years Anne Tyler can still surprise me. It's nice.
The ending is decidedly abrupt--I never say this, but I could have used about 50-75 more pages. If you read this one, let me know what you think!