Discussion Questions for The Beginner's Goodbye
1. Aaron is handicapped on his right site as a result of childhood illness. Why do you think the author chose to give her main character such a handicap? Is it significant -- a symbol or metaphor -- or entirely coincidental? In her conversation with Robb Forman Dew, Tyler comments that Aaron may be trying to hide his handicap and suggests there is a reason he does so. What do you think the reason is?
2. Does the way that Aaron's mother and sister treated him when he was growing up have an impact on his character as an adult? Or explain why he might have married Dorothy?
3. In Aaron's recollections of initially meeting Dorothy and falling in love with her, he portrays himself as having been immediately besotted, though Dorothy herself seems less than scintillating. Is Aaron aware of this discrepancy?
4. After Dorothy's death, does Aaron fully grieve for her, or is he reluctant to accept what has happened?
5. Why does Dorothy reappear so many months after her death? And why does she appear only to Aaron?
6. Aaron states early in the book (pages 11-12) that he is an atheist. Does this (lack of) belief shed any light on Dorothy's appearances?
7. How does Dorothy act when she reappears? Why? Does her behavior indicate something about her character? About Aaron's?
8. Beginning on page 175, Aaron reveals that his marriage to Dorothy was not, after all, ideal. Does this come as a surprise? Do you think this has something to do with Dorothy's reappearances?
9. Toward the end of the book (pages 194-95), Aaron reflects on Gil's thoughts about his father's reappearances ("I know Gil felt it was his father's unfinished business that brought him, but what's occurred to me lately is, couldn't it have been Gil's unfinished business?"). Do Aaron's reflections suggest why Dorothy has reappeared?
10. If so, what should the reader make of Aaron's almost defensive remarks on the following page? ("Do you imagine it hasn't occurred to me that I might have just made Dorothy's visits up?") What should we think of Nate's comments on the page after that? ("I think if you knew them well enough...you might be able to imagine what they would tell you even now.") Do these comments indicate how Aaron has come to view Dorothy's appearances?
11. What are the possible ways to interpret the final paragraph of the book? Are the apparitions of Dorothy real, after all? Is Aaron deluded? Does the final paragraph suggest a "moral" to the story? Was a moral hinted at earlier?
12. What is the significance of the book's title?
13. On page 207, Tyler says, "My reason for writing now is to live lives other than my own, and I do that by burrowing deeper and deeper, quarter inch by quarter inch, till I reach the center of those lives." Discuss some of the ways that she has done that in The Beginner's Goodbye.