Over the last couple of weeks the Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 has been Anne Tyler’s new novel The Beginners Goodbye.
I came upon it by chance on iPlayer when looking for something to listen to while doing the ironing. I quite like listening to a radio play or sketch, it takes your mind off the task at hand. (I iron while watching TV too but it’s a slower process when you keep lifting your head to see the screen.)
It’s not often I catch the start of a week’s worth of programmes but maybe there was something in the timing of this one because it was about a subject which touched my heart.
The Beginner's Goodbye is the story of Aaron Woolcott who is coming to terms with the loss of his wife Dorothy; she was killed in a freak accident when a tree fell on their house.
They had just argued when the incident occurred and as the story unfolded you could see how their marriage wasn’t perfect or easy, but then how many marriages are?
I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read it; it’s a well written and beautifully told story. In a lot of ways the plot is a very simple and very little actually happens.
Sometimes it is the telling of these uncomplicated everyday tales that makes them even more poignant and real.
The main focus of the story is that Dorothy comes back.
It is left to the reader/listener to speculate if this apparition is real or in Aaron’s head. That’s the beauty of fiction, it’s just a story and not necessarily true.
Through these meetings Aaron and Dorothy finally come to some sort of understanding of each other. They manage to set aside past aggravations leaving Aaron some peace after the tragedy of his wife's sudden death. By the end of the novel he is ready to move on.
Now Andrew has never come back to me in any kind of physical form real or imagined. I don’t spend my time talking to him either although I’ve heard of people who do that sort of thing and it brings them comfort. I have never felt the need.
Andrew worked away so I got used to him not being physically here, although he would ring me daily. If I missed a call from him I would get quite agitated, probably because it made me feel I had let him down not being there.
I have had a couple of dreams with Andrew in, one not long after he died and the other a few months ago.
In the second dream we were in our old house and there he was sat on the sofa. I thought or even said, “what are you doing here?”
Perhaps I have fully accepted he is not here and never will be. I’ve packed away boxes labelled grief, arguments, regrets. The confetti of what ifs and I wish we hads can’t lay scattered on the floor forever.
I have to believe that underneath our ordinary everyday struggles we had something good and worth holding onto. Nothing is ever perfect.
Ultimately you pick up the pieces and rearrange them in a new order to suit yourself.
In Anne Tyler’s novel Aaron has to reassemble the pieces of his life in the same manner he has to rebuild his crushed home.
When you are satisfied the pieces fit sufficiently well enough together you are ready to move on.
If you get the chance to read the book then do, especially if you are coming to terms with bereavement. It is a gentle read which touches so many emotions and you find yourself nodding, yes I feel like that too.