The Accidental Tourist
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Fred Marcellino|
|August 12, 1985|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3570.Y45 A64 1985|
The Accidental Tourist is a 1985 novel by Anne Tyler that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1985 and the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction in 1986. The novel was adapted into a 1988 award-winning film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Geena Davis, for which Davis won an Academy Award.
Set in Baltimore, Maryland, the plot revolves around Macon Leary, a writer of travel guides whose son has been killed in a shooting at a fast-food restaurant. He and his wife Sarah, separately lost in grief, find their marriage disintegrating until she eventually moves out. When he becomes incapacitated due to a fall involving his disturbed dog and one of his crazy home inventions, he returns to the family home to stay with his eccentric siblings—sister Rose and brothers Porter and Charles. The siblings' odd habits include alphabetizing the groceries in the kitchen cabinets and ignoring the ringing telephone. When his publisher, Julian, comes to visit, Julian finds himself attracted to Rose. They eventually marry, though Rose later somehow leaves him to move back in with her brothers.
Macon hires Muriel Pritchett, a quirky young woman with a sickly son, to train his unruly dog, and soon finds himself drifting into a relationship with the two of them. Muriel is the exact opposite of Macon's wife: brash, talkative, pushy, less "classy" and less educated, and fond of wearing eccentric outfits. Despite his initial resistance to this relationship, Macon finds that he is constantly surprised by Muriel's perceptiveness, strength and optimism, as well as her quirky habits and ability to listen. Macon's natural love of the familiar and resistance to commitment results in a relationship that is quite a struggle between the pushy Muriel and the passive Macon. But over time, Macon becomes attached to both Muriel and Alexander, the son, and moves in with them in their tawdry little house. Macon slowly finds that he loves "the surprise of her, and also the surprise of himself when he was with her. In the foreign country that was Singleton Street he was an entirely different person." When his wife Sarah becomes aware of the situation, she decides they should reconcile, forcing him to make a difficult decision about his future.
In The New York Times, Larry McMurtry says, "Tyler shows, with a fine clarity, the mingling of misery and contentment in the daily lives of her families, reminds us how alike--and yet distinct--happy and unhappy families can be. Muriel Pritchett is as appealing a woman as Miss Tyler has created; and upon the quiet Macon she lavishes the kind of intelligent consideration that he only intermittently gets from his own womenfolk".
Michiko Kakutani wrote, "It is from just such private lives that Miss Tyler herself has spun her own minutely detailed art, rendering them with such warmth and fidelity that her readers, too, are startled into a new appreciation of the ordinary and mundane. Like John Updike, she has taken as her fictional territory that sprawling American landscape of the middle class, and in 10 novels now, she has claimed as her special province the family in all its contrary dimensions."
In contrast to most reviewers, John Blades, in a Chicago Tribune review, wrote a scathing review: "In an age of dissonant, aggressive fiction, Tyler has established herself as a voice of sweet reason, the heiress apparent to Eudora Welty as the earth mother of American writers. For all Tyler`s seductive qualities--the great charm and coziness of her fictional universe, her compassion for misfits, and, not least, her soothing, almost tranquilizing voice--there is something annoyingly synthetic about the work itself. However wise and wonderful, her fiction is seriously diluted by the promiscuous use of artificial sweeteners, a practice that has made Tyler our foremost NutraSweet novelist."
Edward Hoagland wrote in the New York Times,"Macon Leary, the magnificently decent yet ordinary man in The Accidental Tourist, follows logic to its zany conclusions, and in doing this justifies...the catch-as-catch-can nature of much of life, making us realize that we are probably missing people of mild temperament in our own acquaintance who are heroes, too, if we had Ms. Tyler's eye for recognizing them....Muriel, the man-chaser and man-saver of The Accidental Tourist, ranks among the more endearing characters of postwar literature."
- "Life is a Foreign Country". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
- Kakutani, Michiko (August 28, 1985) "Books of the Times," New York Times
- Blades, John (July 20, 1986) “For Nutrasweet Fiction, Tyler Takes the Cake,” Chicago Tribune
- Hoagland, Edward (September 11, 1988) "About Maggie, Who Tried Too Hard," New York Times
- Innocent with an Explanation, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler Review by Time Magazine