Beginner's Goodbye

Beginner's Goodbye: Dealing with Loss,
A Book Club Discussion
By Neely Kennedy

In the March Ladies' Home Journal Book Club selection, The Beginner’s Goodbye seasoned novelist Anne Tyler tells the intimate story of how a quirky publishing house editor, Aaron Woolcott, deals with the loss of his wife, Dorothy, after a tree falls on their home. Quotes taken from the book below outline his often peculiar, yet honest, perspective on his wife, marriage, colleagues, and family as he moves through the classic stages of grief.

Shock— “Here is something funny: I’d lost my cold.   I don’t mean I got over it; I mean it just disappeared, at some point between when I drank the tea and when I walked into the waiting room…Maybe a cold could be shaken out of a person by the slam of a tree trunk, or by psychic trauma.”

Denial—“I was purposely ignoring the roof the way I had ignored those doctors peeking into the waiting room. ‘Roof? What Roof?’ I should have asked Mr. Bryan. ‘I don’t see anything wrong with the roof’.”

Sadness—“That was one of the worst things about losing your wife, I found; your wife is the very person you want to discuss it all with.”

Regaining Normalcy —“It seemed heartless that I should think to go in for my semiannual dental checkup, but I did. And then I bought myself some new socks. Socks of all things! So trivial. But all my old ones had holes in the toes.”

Creating Order Out of Chaos —“So, as soon as I reached work, I shut myself in my office and started making phone calls. First I left a message on the answering machine at my insurance company…Then I searched the Internet for gil bryan contractor baltimore. “

Anger—“It hadn’t escaped my notice that I was very snappish these days. I thought about it as I was driving home. At our office meeting that morning when Nandina brought us to order by tapping her pen against her coffee mug, I had nearly bitten her head off.”

Facing Reality—“Then why was our marriage so unhappy? Because it was unhappy. I will say that now. Or it was difficult, at least. Out of synch.  Uncoordinated. It seemed we just never quite got the hang of being a couple the way other people did. We should have taken lessons or something; that’s what I tell myself.”

Savoring Each Moment —Well, I have no idea if his opinion was right. But all the same, I’m careful these days to pay attention.” I see how Peggy gives a frothy little spin to her skirt as she turns onto our sidewalk, and how Maeve has suddenly out of nowhere taught herself to climb steps the grown up way, foot above foot. I make a firm mental note of these things as I follow them into the house.”

*Book Club Bonus: Have a round-robin discussion with your group—do you think Dorothy was real or in Aaron’s imagination? Does it matter?


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