Macon Leary learns to cope with the murder of his twelve-year-old son and separation from his wife in Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist. With the assistance of Muriel, a flamboyant young dog trainer with whom he becomes romantically involved, Macon assuages his grief, learns to assume control over his life, and becomes more contented than ever before.
As the novel begins, Macon and Sarah are returning early from a vacation on the beach. Neither, it seems, “had the heart for it.” Nor have they had the heart for much else since the murder of their son during a robbery the previous year. During the short car trip, the flaws of their marriage are revealed. Macon refuses to stop driving during a rainstorm, informing Sarah that he has a system for safe driving. Meantime, Sarah longs for a more spontaneous, less systematic man. When she announces that she is leaving him and abandoning their twenty-year marriage, Macon is stunned.
With Sarah gone, Macon is alone and lonely in his home in an upper-class Baltimore neighborhood. His sole companions are his son’s intractable dog, Edward, and Helen, a cat. Macon seldom ventures from his house, where he writes guidebooks for Americans who must travel but long for domestic routines. While others sit in armchairs and dream of travel, “accidental tourists” travel dreaming of home.
Always a methodical man, Macon becomes obsessive when Sarah departs. Preoccupied with conserving energy, he stops using the clothes dryer, although he often has to wear damp clothes. He attaches the popcorn maker—he eschews eggs, fearing food poisoning—to his bedside clock to avoid any unessential steps while preparing breakfast. To eliminate the inconvenience of making the bed, he sleeps in “body bags,” sheets that are sewn together to form a giant envelope.
(The entire section is 755 words.)