The Accidental Tourist [NOOK Book]

Overview

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye.

Macon Leary is a travel writer who hates both travel and anything out of the ordinary. He is grounded by loneliness and an unwillingness to compromise his creature comforts when he meets Muriel, a deliciously peculiar dog-obedience trainer who up-ends Macon’s...
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The Accidental Tourist

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Overview

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye.

Macon Leary is a travel writer who hates both travel and anything out of the ordinary. He is grounded by loneliness and an unwillingness to compromise his creature comforts when he meets Muriel, a deliciously peculiar dog-obedience trainer who up-ends Macon’s insular world–and thrusts him headlong into a remarkable engagement with life.

Meet Macon Leary--a travel writer who hates both travel and strangeness. Grounded by loneliness, comfort, and a somewhat odd domestic life, Macon is about to embark on a surprising new adventure, arriving in the form of a fuzzy-haired dog obedience trainer who promises to turn his life around.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
Indisputably her best book.
From the Publisher
“INDISPUTABLY HER BEST BOOK . . .
It leaves one aching with pleasure and pain.”
The Washington Post

“Hilarious . . . and touching . . . Anne Tyler is a wise and perceptive writer with a warm understanding of human foibles.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Comic . . . Sweetly perverse . . . A novel animated by witty invention and lively personalities.”
Time

“Anne Tyler [is] covering common ground with uncommon insight. . . . Convincingly real.”
People

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307416834
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 122,741
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anne Tyler has made a glorious career of telling the often less-than glorious stories of small-town people enduring life’s every day ups and downs. Having come of age in rural Raleigh, North Carolina, the enigmatic Tyler draws upon her background to fashion tales of the South that are quirky, humorous, and insightful.

Biography

Anne Tyler has had a very active imagination all her life. When she was a young girl, she would spend an hour or two after being put to bed every night fantasizing that she was a doctor. She imagined conversations with patients, and pictured their lives as she did so, considering both their illnesses and the intricacies of their backgrounds. She constructed little mental plays around these characters that she would whisper to herself in the dark -- much to the chagrin of her brother, with whom she shared a room. "[H]e used to call out to our parents, ‘Anne's whispering again!'" she once told Barnes & Noble.com. As much as she may have vexed her brother, she also believes that these fantasies helped her to develop into the beloved, award-winning novelist she is today.

Tyler's work is characterized by a meticulous attention to detail, a genuine love of her characters, and a quirky sense of humor. Her public persona is characterized by its own quirks, as well. She refuses to grant face-to-face interviews. She has never publicly read from any of her books. She does not do book signings or tours. All of this has lent a certain mystique to her novels, although Tyler has said that her reluctance to become a public figure status is actually the result of simple shyness, not to mention her desire for her writing to speak for itself. Fortunately, Anne Tyler's work speaks with a clear, fully-realized voice that does not require unnecessary elucidation by the writer.

Tyler published her first novel If Morning Ever Comes in 1964, and that singular voice was already in place. This astute debut that tracks the self-realization of a young man named Ben Joe Hawkins displayed Tyler's characteristic wit and gentle eccentricity right off the bat. Harper's declared the novel "a triumph," and Tyler was on her way to creating an impressive catalog of novels chronicling the every day hopes, fears, dreams, failures, and victories of small-town Americans. Having come of age, herself, in rural North Carolina, Tyler had particular insight into the lives of her characters. Each novel was a little shimmering gem, winning her a devoted following and public accolades that more than compensated for her refusal to appear in public. Her novel Earthly Possessions, the story of a housewife who is taken hostage by a young man during a bank robbery, was released the same year she won an award for "literary excellence and promise of important work to come" from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. The book also went on to become a television movie starring Susan Sarandon and Stephen Dorff in 1999.

However, the most well-known adaptation of one of Tyler's novels arrived more than a decade earlier when The Accidental Tourist was made into an Academy Award winning film starring Geena Davis and William Hurt. Consequently, The Accidental Tourist is viewed by some as Tyler's signature novel, covering many of the writer's favorite themes: the push and pull of marriage, the appearance of a romantic eccentric, personal tragedy, and the quest to escape from the drudgery of routine. The Accidental Tourist won the National Book Critics Circle Award and hit number one on The New York Times Bestseller list.

Three years later, Tyler received the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons, which further explored themes of marriage and self-examination. Despite having won the prestigious Pulitzer, Tyler still refused to allow herself to be drawn into the spotlight. Quietly, contemplatively, she chose to continue publishing a sequence of uniformly fine novels, including Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, and The Amateur Marriage.

Anne Tyler's novel Digging to America reexamines many of her chief obsessions, while also possibly drawing upon a personal triumph -- her marriage to Iranian psychiatrist and novelist Taghi Mohammad Modarressi -- and the tragedy of his death in 1997. Digging to America follows the relationship between two families, the Iranian Yazdans and the all-American Donaldsons, as they become closer and closer and affect each other deeper and deeper over a succession of years. Digging to America is arguably Tyler's deepest and most profound work to date. It also delivers more of her peculiar brand of humor, which will surely please her longtime fans, thrilled that she continues spinning tales with the trademark attention to character that has distinguished her stories ever since she was a little girl, whispering to herself in the dark. Tyler may have decided to remain in the dark and out of the public eye, but the stories she has to tell have shed more than their share of light on the lives of her readers.

Good To Know

Tyler first began writing stories at the innocent age of seven. At the time, most of her yarns involved, as she has said, "lucky, lucky girls who got to go west in covered wagons."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Duke University, 1961

Read an Excerpt

They were supposed to stay at the beach a week, but neither of them had the heart for it and they decided to come back early. Macon drove. Sarah sat next to him, leaning her head against the side window. Chips of cloudy sky showed through her tangled brown curls.

Macon wore a formal summer suit, his traveling suit—much more logical for traveling than jeans, he always said. Jeans had those stiff, hard seams and those rivets. Sarah wore a strapless terry beach dress. They might have been returning from two entirely different trips. Sarah had a tan but Macon didn’t. He was a tall, pale, gray-eyed man, with straight fair hair cut close to his head, and his skin was that thin kind that easily burns. He’d kept away from the sun during the middle part of every day.

Just past the start of the divided highway, the sky grew almost black and several enormous drops spattered the windshield. Sarah sat up straight. “Let’s hope it doesn’t rain,” she said.

“I don’t mind a little rain,” Macon said.

Sarah sat back again, but she kept her eyes on the road.

It was a Thursday morning. There wasn’t much traffic. They passed a pickup truck, then a van all covered with stickers from a hundred scenic attractions. The drops on the windshield grew closer together. Macon switched his wipers on. Tick-swoosh, they went—a lulling sound; and there was a gentle patter on the roof. Every now and then a gust of wind blew up. Rain flattened the long, pale grass at the sides of the road. It slanted across the boat lots, lumberyards, and discount furniture outlets, which already had a darkened look as if here it might have been raining for some time.

“Can you see all right?” Sarah asked.

“Of course,” Macon said. “This is nothing.”

They arrived behind a trailer truck whose rear wheels sent out arcs of spray. Macon swung to the left and passed. There was a moment of watery blindness till the truck had dropped behind. Sarah gripped the dashboard with one hand.

“I don’t know how you can see to drive,” she said.

“Maybe you should put on your glasses.”

“Putting on my glasses would help you to see?”

“Not me; you,” Macon said. “You’re focused on the windshield instead of the road.”

Sarah continued to grip the dashboard. She had a broad, smooth face that gave an impression of calm, but if you looked closely you’d notice the tension at the corners of her eyes.

The car drew in around them like a room. Their breaths fogged the windows. Earlier the air conditioner had been running and now some artificial chill remained, quickly turning dank, carrying with it the smell of mildew. They shot through an underpass. The rain stopped completely for one blank, startling second. Sarah gave a little gasp of relief, but even before it was uttered, the hammering on the roof resumed. She turned and gazed back longingly at the underpass. Macon sped ahead, with his hands relaxed on the wheel.

“Did you notice that boy with the motorcycle?” Sarah asked. She had to raise her voice; a steady, insistent roaring sound engulfed them.

“What boy?”

“He was parked beneath the underpass.”

“It’s crazy to ride a motorcycle on a day like today,” Macon said. “Crazy to ride one any day. You’re so exposed to the elements.”

“We could do that,” Sarah said. “Stop and wait it out.”

“Sarah, if I felt we were in the slightest danger I’d have pulled over long ago.”

“Well, I don’t know that you would have,” Sarah said.

They passed a field where the rain seemed to fall in sheets, layers and layers of rain beating down the cornstalks, flooding the rutted soil. Great lashings of water flung themselves at the windshield. Macon switched his wiper blades to high.

“I don’t know that you really care that much,” Sarah said. “Do you?”

Macon said, “Care?”

“I said to you the other day, I said, ‘Macon, now that Ethan’s dead I sometimes wonder if there’s any point to life.’ Do you remember what you answered?”

“Well, not offhand,” Macon said.

“You said, ‘Honey, to tell the truth, it never seemed to me there was all that much point to begin with.’ Those were your exact words.”

“Um . . .”

“And you don’t even know what was wrong with that.”

“No, I guess I don’t,” Macon said.

He passed a line of cars that had parked at the side of the road, their windows opaque, their gleaming surfaces bouncing back the rain in shallow explosions. One car was slightly tipped, as if about to fall into the muddy torrent that churned and raced in the gully. Macon kept a steady speed.

“You’re not a comfort, Macon,” Sarah said.

“Honey, I’m trying to be.”

“You just go on your same old way like before. Your little routines and rituals, depressing habits, day after day. No comfort at all.”

“Shouldn’t I need comfort too?” Macon asked. “You’re not the only one, Sarah. I don’t know why you feel it’s your loss alone.”

“Well, I just do, sometimes,” Sarah said.

They were quiet a moment. A wide lake, it seemed, in the center of the highway crashed against the underside of the car and slammed it to the right. Macon pumped his brakes and drove on.

“This rain, for instance,” Sarah said. “You know it makes me nervous. What harm would it do to wait it out? You’d be showing some concern. You’d be telling me we’re in this together.”

Macon peered through the windshield, which was streaming so that it seemed marbled. He said, “I’ve got a system, Sarah. You know I drive according to a system.”

“You and your systems!”

“Also,” he said, “if you don’t see any point to life, I can’t figure why a rainstorm would make you nervous.”

Sarah slumped in her seat.

“Will you look at that!” he said. “A mobile home’s washed clear across that trailer park.”

“Macon, I want a divorce,” Sarah told him.

Macon braked and glanced over at her. “What?” he said. The car swerved. He had to face forward again. “What did I say?” he asked. “What did it mean?”

“I just can’t live with you anymore,” Sarah said.

Macon went on watching the road, but his nose seemed sharper and whiter, as if the skin of his face had been pulled tight. He cleared his throat. He said, “Honey. Listen. It’s been a hard year. We’ve had a hard time. People who lose a child often feel this way; everybody says so; everybody says it’s a terrible strain on a marriage—”

“I’d like to find a place of my own as soon as we get back,” Sarah told him.

“Place of your own,” Macon echoed, but he spoke so softly, and the rain beat so loudly on the roof, it looked as if he were only moving his lips. “Well,” he said. “All right. If that’s what you really want.”

“You can keep the house,” Sarah said. “You never did like moving.”

For some reason, it was this that made her finally break down. She turned away sharply. Macon switched his right blinker on. He pulled into a Texaco station, parked beneath the overhang, and cut off the engine. Then he started rubbing his knees with his palms. Sarah huddled in her corner. The only sound was the drumming of rain on the overhang far above them.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Reading Group Guide

1. Would you characterize yourself as an accidental tourist in your
own life? Do you know anyone you might consider an accidental
tourist?

2. What kind of traveler are you? Would you find Macon's guides
helpful?

3. Macon has come up with a technique to avoid contact with others
on airplanes. Public transportation can lead to an awkward intimacy
with strangers. How do you handle such situations? Does
Macon's approach work for you?

4. There was no memorial service for Ethan in Baltimore. Whose
idea do you think that was? Do you agree with Garner, Macon's
neighbor, who chastises him for not having one?

5. Macon's style of mourning offends many people, including his
wife. Do their complaints have any merit?

6. According to Macon, "it was their immunity to time that made the
dead so heartbreaking." Discuss the meaning of this statement.

7. What is the significance of Macon and Susan's conversation about
Ethan? What do they each gain from it?

8. Why doesn't Macon repair his house after it is seriously damaged
by water?

9. The loss of a child can be devastating to a marriage. How do you
think a relationship survives such a cataclysmic event?

10. Macon believes he became a different person for Sarah. How
much do we change in the name of love? How much should we
change?

11. Do you think Sarah ever really understood Macon?

12. Macon realizes that while he and Sarah tried too hard to have a
child, once they had Ethan, it made their differences that much
more glaring. Do you think they would have remained together if
Ethan had lived?

13. Maconremarks that "he just didn't want to get involved" with
Muriel and her messy life, but somehow he has. Does this ring
true? Did Muriel simply overwhelm him?

14. Initially, Macon and Alexander are very wary of each other. Discuss
the nature of Macon and Alexander's relationship and what
they have to offer each other.

15. Rose decides to love Julian despite her brothers' obvious disapproval.
What do you think drives her to make such a difficult
decision?

16. Julian describes Rose's retreat back to the Leary house as though
she'd worn herself a groove or something in that house of hers,
and she couldn't help swerving back into it. Do you think Rose
has made a mistake?

17. Do you find yourself as fascinated by the Learys as Julian is? Why
or why not?

18. When Rose declares that she and her siblings are the most conventional
people she knows, Macon cannot explain why he disagrees
with her. Can you?

19. Do you think the Learys' will ever purchase an answering
machine? Do you think Julian might slip one in the house?

20. Do you or does anyone you know suffer from geographic
dyslexia?

21. Why does Sarah return to Macon? Do you think they could have
worked it out or had they used each other up?

22. Macon does not think he has ever taken steps in his life and acted.
Do you think this insight is accurate, or is it a product of the helplessness
he feels in the wake of his son's death?

23. Do you think Macon has made the right decision in the end? Will
the relationship work out?

24. Do you think any of the couples in this novel stand a chance?

25. In the end, Macon comforts himself with the thought that perhaps
the dead age, and are part of the flow of time. Does this idea comfort
you?

26. If you could learn more about a particular character in this novel,
which would it be and why?

27. Would your group recommend this novel to other reading
groups? How does this novel compare to other works the group
has read?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Once it seemed brilliant, but now contrived

    I read this about 20 years ago and recall it as a powerful, insightful book. Just over a year ago I lost a son, and so this year I decided to plunge back in, expecting comfort, connection via fiction, a new way of coming to understanding. Instead I found myself saying over and over again to myself, "Sorry Ms. Tyler, you missed that too." The plot seems forced, the love affair between the mourning father and his new girlfriend cliche, and the ending too easy and predictable. More than that, sorry, but as an act of imagination, it simply doesn't get close to the confusion and pain of this kind of grief, at least for me. As ever with Tyler's writing, though, it is well-crafted. But the humaneness and wisdom I once thought this book contained turns out, now that I've experienced something like what she tries to convey, as shallow and failed empathy. The characters and emotions became to me, in the end, contrivances, not real, and given the subject matter she was attempting too confront, not true enough by half.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointed

    I had high hopes for this book, but it did not meet them.

    As I read, I kept thinking it would get better; that something would earn my interest -- it never did.

    To me it felt like Tyler couldn't decide whether to write her characters as caricatures or purely boring beings. So in the end, it felt like an awful mixture of people who made no sense whatsoever. The worst was that the characters would suddenly have wonderful insights into life (i.e., when Macon felt Muriel's cesarian scar), which made no sense since no one in the book seemed to be functioning on any rationally thinking level at any other moment in the book.

    Ultimately, the characters were so poorly written that I couldn't even gain interest in the story, which had a lot of potential in my opinion.

    It felt like a poor-man's version of Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, which is remarkably better on all fronts. Perhaps I shouldn't compare because they are slightly different, but that was all I could think about the entire time I read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2006

    I read this book because I had to

    Macon is someone that I could never like in real life. He is boring, stodgy, and does not engage in the world around him. He better stick with Muriel since she is his only chance of leaving his grey sweats behind. It was hard to get through this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Wonderful Novel

    I read this book for my English class this year, and it has stuck with me ever since. Anne Tyler's characters are well-developed and quirky, and the plot is very moving. This book definitely made me stop and thing about my own life and how I'm choosing to live it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    Kept my interest

    Although I did enjoy the book, I most likely would not have read it if I had known it was a "sit around and discuss the implications/impact it had" kind of book. I mostly like to read for entertainment and this is more of a sit and think about it kind of book. Great if you like that kind of read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2006

    Excellent

    You'd never guess by the writing style that this is by Anne Tyler. I tried reading her ladder of years and it was utterly horrible. The accidental tourist is a great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2006

    Beautiful character study by Tyler

    Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist is one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read. Her characters are lovable misfits, not one of whom are unlikeable. Highly recommended for all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2005

    Wonderful surprise for an oddly titled novel!

    This book is one of the best I have ever read--and I have read a lot of them! The character development is outstanding and the plot is wonderful too. This book is a pleasure to read and share with a friend!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    An inspired student tourist

    I enjoyed The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. I read it for an AP English Outside Reading Assignment and I found it really interesting. The only part I did not find interesting was the ending. Then again, it fits the theme of change being unevitable. I myself, traveled to Germany last summer and I could relate to some of Macon's feelings about planes. Although, I am not as anti-social and routine addicted as Macon. I easily talked with the German gentleman sitting next to me, and I quickly made a new friend. We keep correspondence, and while my school group was in Germany he had offered to give us a tour of Bremen. I enjoyed The Accidental Tourist and I would recommend it to anyone!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Best Character Award Goes To. . .

    The main character, Macon, is eccentric and completely addicting. I was drawn to him immediately due to his neurotic personality and quirky outlook on life. I felt that Macon's personality was the best thing about this book. I enjoyed the first half of the book much more, because of the way Macon's character unfolded; I was almost disappointed when the plot deepened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    Good, but not Great

    This is my first visit with Tyler and I found this book interesting, but not wonderful. The characters were believable enough to be very annoying (which is a good thing). Even the characters I tried to like were still a bit unlikable ¿ perhaps that¿s what the author was trying to accomplish; I¿m not sure. A quick, easy read and the story includes a wonderful dog named Edward who plays a minor part, yet a major role in the main character¿s life and the qualities that, I felt, redeemed him in the end.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2001

    FABULOUS!

    Incredibly compelling reading, impossible to put down. The first book in a LONG time I've read cover to cover, twice.

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    Posted April 7, 2011

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews

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