May 16, 2012 · 7:43 am
The Beginner’s Goodbye: A Novel by Anne Tyler (Knopf, $24.95, 208 pages; Random House Audio, $35.00, Unabridged on 6 CDs)
What we have here is (a) failure to communicate. Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke
Aaron Woolcott has led a life full of physical challenges. A childhood illness left him with a crippled hand and leg. Moreover, his sister, Nandina, has been overly protective of him. Aaron reacts to her babying by retreating into a defensive and self-reliant personal style. He rejects tenderness and caring which leads him to be attracted to a brusk oncology radiologist who seemingly lacks a softer side. They meet in a work-related situation which sets the stage for further discussions and interactions.
The Woolcott family’s publishing house features a series of books – The Beginner’s Guide, similar to, but less ambitious than, the popular Idiot’s Guide books. The Beginner’s Guides are aimed at readers who want to skim the surface of a simplified topic or activity, such as hosting one’s first dinner party. Aaron is doing background work on a new title about cancer treatment patients when he interviews Dr. Dorothy Rosales. He is smitten right away when Dorothy comments on his physical condition in a clinical way. Although Aaron could easily be portrayed sympathetically, there is something off-putting about him that becomes more evident as the story unfolds.
Author Tyler takes the theme of miscommunication and focuses on the way that Aaron’s approach to life has stifled and limited the relationship that he and Dorothy have shared during their marriage. His family and work relationships have suffered as well. Too often, what we experience within ourselves is not always in sync with what others are feeling and thinking.
As is her forte, Anne Tyler turns an accidental death into a humbling tale of grief and recovery for Aaron. The large oak tree outside their home’s sunroom falls through the roof onto Dorothy as she sits at her desk. Aaron is powerless to help her and the tree becomes the catalyst for the story. Sometime after her death, Dorothy appears to Aaron as though she’s still alive. This is not a new story device and, not surprisingly, Tyler uses it as a way to force Aaron to confront reality. There are many lessons that each of the characters learns as he or she examines the way Dorothy’s death has triggered recovery efforts, both emotional and physical.
The audio book features Kirby Heyborne, a veteran actor who portrays Aaron in a very convincing manner. This reviewer found the story to be the usual low-keyed take on life’s challenges that Anne Tyler is considered one of the best at writing. It is almost too slowly paced; however, Tyler is a master at drawing in the reader so that she has the opportunity to thoroughly make her case for living a fully-conscious life.
The audiobook version of The Beginner’s Goodbye was purchased by the reviewer’s husband.
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May 15, 2012 · 7:57 am
A review of The Beginner’s Goodbye: A Novel by Anne Tyler.
February 8, 2012 · 12:55 pm
One Day: A Novel by David Nicholls (Vintage, $14.95, 448 pages; Random House Audio, $19.99, 13 compact discs)
If ever there was a clear-cut category for One Day, “dramedy” is where it belongs. By now it’s likely that the book, audio book and movie have been enjoyed by countless tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. The story thread is not really new. A similar example this reviewer recalls is Same Time Next Year. In the play and movie of the same name, a couple’s thrown together by chance, has a romantic encounter and agrees to meet on the same weekend each year. They do so for 24 years.
One Day revisits the main characters, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew each year on the 15th of July, St. Swithin’s Day, for 20 years following their graduation from Edinburgh University in Scotland. Emma and Dexter spend graduation night together at the beginning of this saga. Dexter is a beautiful young man from a well-to-do family who enjoys being admired and bedded by many women. Emma, on the other hand, comes from a lower-class background and is significantly brighter academically than Dexter. However, her life experience and confidence are seriously lacking which does not bode well for her success in life.
Post-graduation finds them in London. Dexter exudes confidence and is highly photogenic which lands him a job as a TV show host while Emma toils away at menial jobs including as a waitress and eventually the manager of a Tex-Mex restaurant. Their annual check-ins prove to be both funny and poignant.
The years roll by and it is clear that both Emma and Dexter are good friends, although Emma is clearly more devoted to Dexter than he to her. Let’s face it, Dexter is devoted to Dexter. On St. Swithin’s Day their lives don’t always intersect, although Nicholls provides the reader with ample evidence of how each is managing life.
This novel has been reviewed twice previously on this site. The prior reviews were written based on the hard copy. This review is based on the unabridged audio book. The word “unabridged” is key here because, unlike the book, the movie version is highly abridged and offers little more than snapshots of some of the July 15th episodes. This reviewer is grateful to have heard the audio version prior to viewing the movie because the film was no more than a shallow glimpse into the characters’ actions. Sadly, the serious and deeply moving aspects of the book were lost in the movie version.
Author Nicholls is a genius at dialogue and fortunately for this reviewer, the audio version was captivating. Anna Bentinck lends her talents to the character voices and manages to do a good job on both the men and women’s parts.
The audio book was purchased by the reviewer’s husband.
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Tagged as a novel, Anna Bentinck, audiobook, Beauty's Only Skin Deep, book review, class differences, comedy, David Nicholls, Dexter Mayhew, drama, dramedy, Edinburgh University, Emma Morley, England, fiction, great love stories, humor, international bestseller, Joseph's Reviews, July 15th, Kindle Edition, London, love story, major motion picture, movie adaptation, national bestseller, Nook Book, One Day, One Day film release, One Day reviews, One Fine Day, poignancy, poignant writing, Random House Audio, recommended books, romance, Ruta Arellano, Saint Swithin's Day, Same Time Next Year, Scotland, St. Swithin's Day, the power of love, TV, unabridged audiobook, unrequited love, Vintage Books
August 12, 2011 · 10:36 am
One Day: A Novel by David Nicholls (Vintage, $14.95, 448 pages)
David Nicholls’ novel One Day was recommended by my friend and colleague Joseph (the passion and dedication behind Joseph’s Reviews) who shared that this book was “just about the best love story I’ve ever read.” So with high expectations I sat down and finished the novel over the course of “one day” without disappointment.
Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet on their college graduation day. Although their backgrounds are far from parallel and they have nothing in common when it comes to their future plans, they make a commitment to a lifetime of friendship. Following a failed attempt at a romantic interlude (that we discover toward the end of the story), Emma continues to hope that the relationship will evolve into more than friendship as Dexter desires Emma but finds distractions in just about every woman he encounters. The reader witnesses the ebb and flow of their relationship as Nicholls presents a synopsis of their lives written on the same day each year over a 20-year time span.
I enjoyed both characters as the story evolved. Even during Emma’s continuous search for her life’s purpose and throughout the stages of Dexter’s egocentric lifestyle, I found their relationship heartwarming. Emma’s ability to see the “real” Dexter and love him desperately even during his destructive phases, and Dexter’s continuous need for Emma’s support without the constant need for her companionship, presents an honest portrayal of the challenges and benefits of long-term friendship. I enjoyed the cultural references outlined throughout the decades and was amused at the familiarity of the relationships I have with some of my own lifelong friends. I won’t reveal any more of the details of Emma and Dexter’s story but will assure you that it is unpredictable and won’t disappoint.
Nicholls has great skill in blending humor, wit, devastation, and confidence in his characters and storyline, which he presented through detailed and vibrant dialogue. I agree with my friend Joseph; this is one of the best love stories I’ve read. It was an immensely enjoyable read and truly deserves the accolades it has received. I am also a fan of actor Anne Hathaway so I believe that this wonderful storyline, combined with Hathaway’s talent, will make the movie version (coming out next week) well worth seeing.
A review copy was received from the publisher. “Every reader will fall in love with it. And every writer will wish they had written it.” Tony Parsons
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Tagged as 20 years, a novel, Anna Bentinck, Anne Hathaway, audiobook, best love stories, David Nicholls, Emma Morley, fiction, film version, friendship, humor, Jim Sturgess, Joseph Arellano, Joseph's Reviews, Joseph's Reviews Blog, Kelly Monson, Kindle Edition, life's lessons, London, love story, movie adaptation, national bestseller, Nook Book, One Day, One Fine Day, Paris, popular fiction, Random House Audio, recommended books, romance novel, Tony Parsons, trade paperback, unabridged audiobook, Vintage