Title: The Beginner’s Goodbye
Author: Anne Tyler
Length: 198 pages
I have two Anne Tyler books on my bookshelf. I acquired them somehow, possibly gifts or hand-me-downs from someone else. I know I didn’t buy them, because I’ve never felt moved to read them. Perhaps they were freebies I toted home thinking, “I might need these if I start dying from cancer.” It’s morbid, but it is a frequent thought where free books are concerned. I worry that I will be trapped in the house or the hospital without reading material. That must be a phobia of some kind or another, I’m sure of it.
The two books I have are Back When We Were Grown Ups and Digging to America. They sit perched there right after Mark Twain and before John Updike. I almost put them in the garage sale we had this week, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Something about them makes me want to hold on to them even as I try to decide what to keep and what not to keep during our ‘we might be moving, but aren’t sure’ months.
This last week at the library, however, I caught a glimpse The Beginner’s Goodbye in the stacks. On the cover is a coffee cup and a dainty tea cup, immediately invoking the idea that two very different companions will be separated and someone will find themselves with a hole in their heart.
There are many covers out for this book, published in 2012, by a Pulitzer prize winner, everyone wants to add their own touch and be associated with it. But this one with the cups, that’s what did it for me – that is what captures the essence of the book in my mind. That’s what conveyed that essence to me from the shelf and prepared me for a mood that I wanted. The other covers are beautiful, but I probably would have gone on forever ignoring them.
Anne Tyler wrote something in The Beginner’s Goodbye that I wish I had written. I suppose I say that fairly frequently, but it is the highest compliment I know how to give. There is much in the reading world I enjoy with all my heart but wouldn’t necessarily long to have my name attached to it. This, is not one of those things, this is lovely and beautiful and gives you a taste of sweet humanity that even the greatest of storytellers seem to miss sometimes.
Appropriately titled and timed for my life, I’m learning to say goodbye to books that I anticipated keeping until my kid was old enough to read and discard them. I might be saying goodbye here soon to my extensive library. Granted, I could get rid of half my books and still have more books than anyone else I know, but sorting through them is hard for me. By checking out this book from the library, Anne Tyler has made it clear that I at least need to read her other two before I give them up – and that when I give them up they should be wrapped and lovingly gifted, not tossed in a garage sale.