Monday, February 5, 2007

The Accidental Tourist - Anne Tyler

Title: The Accidental Tourist
Author: Anne Tyler
Rating: A-

Macon Leary comes from a methodical and efficient family. His sister, Rose, organizes her food pantry alphabetically (E for elbow macaroni) and irons her brothers' socks . His brothers insist at eating at 5.30 sharp each night. Macon himself writes travel guides for people who did not like to travel, but are forced to do so for business, helping them to pretend they never left home.

Macon and Sarah's marriage crumbles after their son is killed in a random incident. Macon is thrust into an unknown world in an effort to re-discover himself (while remaining sheltered by his move-in with his sister and brothers). Pursued by a flighty yet determined dog trainer, Muriel, Macon sets of on a journey to discover how to live life, not just plod along quietly.

I was delighted when, a few pages in, I discovered this book was written by a Baltimore-based author, and took place in Baltimore itself. Familiar settings jumped out at me. Roland Park, the neighborhood Macon lives, is 10 minutes away from my own. Muriel's mother lives in Timonium, the suburb that I go to for pet food and REI. The delight remained, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this bittersweet, heartwarming story.

Since my book includes discussion questions, I have decided to answer a few.
1. Would you characterize yourself as an accidental tourist in your own life?
Yes and No. Largely no. There are many decisions I have made in my life that went against the grain of my family, and sometimes society, rather than letting life "happen to me". But there are other times that I am an accidental tourist, staying within my comfort zone.

2. What kind of traveler are you? Would you find Macon's guides helpful?
I would not find a use for Macon's travel guides at all. When I travel, I do rely on travel books, but not to keep me "in America". I travel to experience other cultures, food, people, etc. I love to try new things, go off the beaten path, and meet new people. I would never ever eat at a chain restaurant on a vacation (I don't eat there at home, either! Local business only for us.). I found it amusing that towards the end of the novel, Muriel was more adept at getting around Paris and conversing with the locals than Macon.

5. Macon's style of mourning offends many people, including his wife. Do their complaints have any merit?
I think many societies have an "acceptable" method that people should grieve. When their style of grieving varies from the norm, many people don't understand, and some are offended. I feel a person should grieve in whatever way is most natural for them. If you conform your feelings to societal standards, then you are undermining your own process in moving past your grief. No, I don't think their complaints had any merit.

6. Do you think any of the couples in this novel stand a chance?
Yes. I think Rose and Julian are in for a lifetime of happiness. Although I don't like Muriel, I believe she is right for Macon at this point in his life. I don't know if that will last. I turned against her when she quit her job and started pressuring Macon financially.

Macon Leary on flying:
"Always bring a book as protection against strangers. Magazines don't last. Newspapers from home will make you homesick and newspapers from elsewhere will remind you you don't belong. You know how alien another paper's typeface seems."

Macon's brothers take on the inner workings of a pet's mind:
"Animals!" he said brightly. "Ever considered what they must think of us? I mean, here we come back from the grocery store with the most amazing haul--chicken, pork, half a cow. We leave at nine and we're back at ten, evidently having caught an entire herd of beasts. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!"


teabird17 said...

What a good idea - answering the reader's guide questions for the blog!
I enjoyed reading this book - and your comments.


Janet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janet said...

I enjoyed your responses as well. I love books in familiar settings although I am not a Baltimorean I do live nearby (30 or 40 minutes). I haven't read this Tyler book. I'll have to add it to my list (as if I don't have enough on my plate! lol)

Nyssaneala said...

teabird17 - Thanks! I thought since they were there in the back of the book, I might as well answer some of them!

Janet - Thanks Janet! I have only been a Baltimorean for about a year, although I grew up nearby, just across the Mason Dixon line in York. LOL, my TBR list is HUGE!

Lotus Reads said...

I, too, love the approach you took to write your review. I daresay I will be tempted to borrow it sometime! :)