The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler is another book whose arrival in my life is shrouded in mystery. I don't know how I came across it or why I picked it up. It's not the type of book I usually read, frankly. It's about middle-aged married people and the only really dramatic event (the sad murder of the main character's son) happens before the book even starts. And it's still a completely absorbing novel that completely suck me in to its world every time I pick it up.
The story is basically this: Macon and his wife, Sarah, have been married for forever. When their son is killed in a robbery gone wrong, their marriage falls apart, and, somehow, Macon falls in with an eccentric and erratic woman named Muriel.
See, not super dramatic, right?
But, like Girl, this story isn't about the events that happen, but the voice that they happen in. Macon Leary is so three dimensional, I feel like I've actually met him, like he's a friend of mine, who simply hasn't called for a while. Take a look at this paragraph that happens after Macon's wife leaves him:
Now was his chance to reorganize, he told himself. He was struck by an incongruous little jolt of interest. the fact was that running a house required some sort of system, and Sarah had never understood that. She was the sort of woman who stored her flatware intermingled. She thought nothing of running the dishwasher with only a handful of forks stacked inside. Macon found that distressing. He was opposed to dishwashers in general; he believed they wasted energy. Energy saving was a hobby of his, you might say.
In those six sentences, we know everything we need to know about why Macon and Sarah's marriage fell apart. His son has been killed and his wife has left him, and he is taking solace in developing a system for organizing the house. (A system, which, once he gets it in place is completely crazy; far more ridiculous than running the dishwasher with just some forks in it, by the way. But Macon wouldn't see it that way.)
The rest of the story just adds layer upon layer to Macon's character and the characters around him. We learn how he became the reserved person that he is, how he and Sarah used to work together before the death of their son, and the complicated relationships he has, not only with his ex-wife, but with his three siblings, and their children, and the new woman he meets, Muriel Pritchett.
Muriel herself is a force of nature. Brash, outspoken, flashy, she is exactly the type of woman who strikes horror into Macon, and that is sort of what attracts him to her as well. This is what he thinks about her:
Then he knew that what mattered was the pattern of her life; that although he did not love her he loved 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. This person had never been suspected of narrowness, never been accused of chilliness; in fact, was mocked for his soft heart. And was anything but orderly.
Like Pride and Prejudice, The Accidental Tourist is a romance, a book about how two people, despite being very different, can be absolutely right for each other. It's more than that, of course, like all good romances are, but at it's heart, it's about Macon growing into himself and discovering that it's not too late to be with someone else.*
* No, I'm not going to tell you who he ends up with at the end. There's very little "plot" in the book, and I'm not going to ruin it for you. Read the book; you won't regret it.