Book group – The Beginner’s Goodbye

Anne Tyler’s writing is so accessible and this story is no exception. We’re asked to believe, or at least observe, the protagonist’s visions of his recently departed wife.  Following the trail of the characters’ courtship and marriage lets us wonder why we fall in love and what happens if the loved one disappears.

  1. Did you have a particular reaction to the story because it was told from a man’s perspective? Did the internal dialogue ring true? How might it have been different from a woman’s point of view?
  2. Where did your sympathies lie, with Aaron or Dorothy? Did you recognise their feelings?
  3. Could you believe that Aaron really saw and spoke to Dorothy after she died? What did you feel toward Aaron when he reported these sightings?
  4. What would have motivated Dorothy to come back and visit Aaron after her death? As Aaron suggests, did one of them or both have ‘unfinished business?’
  5. Why do you think the author chose the title, ‘The Beginner’s Goodbye?’ Did you think Aaron was consciously saying goodbye to Dorothy through the story?
  6. Why did the author include Nandina’s story line? How was her life juxtaposed against Aaron’s? Was it important for Aaron to see his sister in a relationship/moving on after Dorothy’s death?
  7. What impression did you have of Aaron regarding his desire not to be ‘mothered’ or comforted by the women in his life? Was this pretence or a genuine need? How was his life built around this need?
  8. What role did Aaron’s work colleagues play in the story? How did each of them help him move through his grief?
  9. What did you think of Aaron’s male friends who offered support? How did Gil, Luke and Nate help Aaron?
  10. How did you feel about Aaron and Peggy at the end of the story? What purpose did it serve to describe Aaron in a parental role? How had the characters changed over time?

beginners goodbye