The Accidental Tourist is a wonderful novel. It is beautifully written and very wise and sensitive. The characters are ordinary people and the plot is full of everyday occurences, and yet I was turning the pages as if I was reading a nail biting thriller.
I'm always hearing that good writers should 'show and not tell', and Anne Tyler does this to perfection. The first chapter alone is a masterclass in how to create an original and moving marriage break-up scene. At the beginning of the novel, we find out that Macon and Sarah's son has died. In other books there would have been endless pages about the death and flashbacks to the family before the tragedy, but Tyler manages to convey the parents's terrible loss without going down this rather tired route. As the book progresses, Macon and Sarah separate, and then Macon meets Muriel, an unusual dog trainer who seems determined to work her way into his life.
All of the characters seem like living, breathing people - with good and bad points. Macon, the main character, is an excellent invention. Being an introvert myself, I felt like I could understand much of his motivation and attitude towards life. I also grew to admire Muriel a great deal and the physical descriptions of her - her frizzy hair and clothes ('I look like the Wrath of God') - were particularly good. I was glad the author didn't go down the stereotypical route of having her be tremendously good looking. And yet, the tension was there the whole time about whether Macon would return to his wife, if she would have him back. The novel made me care deeply for all the characters, and I was utterly torn as to what I thought Macon should do.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. The author has a very compassionate way of writing about people, but not so that they come across as cloying or too good to be true. The humour and kindness in the book is matched by tragedy and sadness. I also thought the ending was beautiful - it had me in tears and gave me a lot to think about. Real life is full of complications and grey areas and misunderstandings and it is wonderful that Anne Tyler has managed to capture this on paper.