The Accidental Tourist

Guide cover image

56 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapters 1-4

Chapters 5-8

Chapters 9-12

Chapters 13-16

Chapters 17-20

Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discussion Questions

Summary and Study Guide

Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist is a literary fiction novel that follows the character-driven story of Macon Leary, who must navigate life following the death of his son and the dissolution of his marriage. The Accidental Tourist was originally published in 1985 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The Accidental Tourist is Anne Tyler’s 10th novel and one of her most recognized works. This study guide follows the paperback Berkley edition released in 1986.

Plot Summary

Get access to this full Study Guide and much more!

  • 7,700+ In-Depth Study Guides
  • 4,850+ Quick-Read Plot Summaries
  • Downloadable PDFs

Macon Leary is a writer based out of Baltimore who creates travel guides for people who must travel on business but do not want to be bothered with discomfort or unexpected experiences. Macon is an expert at finding the most comfortable and convenient solutions to average problems. While driving back from a beach vacation, Macon’s wife, Sarah , informs him that she wants a divorce. It’s been a year since their son, Ethan, was unexpectedly killed, and the two have grieved in very different ways. After Sarah moves out, Macon restructures their house, creating a multitude of systems and contraptions to maximize comfort and convenience. When it comes time for Macon to go on his next trip for work, he goes to board the family dog, Edward . He learns Edward is blacklisted from the vet for biting a worker last time he was boarded. Desperate, Macon finds another vet, where he meets Muriel Pritchett. Muriel is talkative and great with dogs. She agrees to let Macon board Edward and proposes that she give Edward obedience lessons. Macon declines and goes on his trip. When he returns, he commits to more systems to run the house. As these systems break down, Macon has an accident, resulting in a broken leg.

Macon moves in with his siblings, Rose , Charles, and Porter, while his leg heals. The Leary siblings are as peculiar as Macon with their habits, rituals, and organizational tendencies. They don’t answer the phone, eat baked potatoes often, and play the same made-up card game they’ve played since they were children. Macon’s siblings complain about Edward’s behavior, but Macon struggles to do anything about it because Edward belonged to Ethan. Finally, after being bit on the hand, Macon reaches out to Muriel, who has persistently tried to get Macon to hire her ever since they met. Muriel is great with Edward and helps Macon teach Edward things like sitting, staying, and walking on a leash. Edward struggles to learn to lie down, so Macon calls the vet. The clerk informs Macon that Muriel is out that day because her son is sick. The next time Macon sees Muriel, he asks how her son is, and she loses her temper because he wasn’t supposed to know about her son yet. Macon fires Muriel in the same scene because she harshly punishes Edward. As Macon’s leg heals, he struggles to overcome his grief from Ethan’s death and his separation from Sarah. When Sarah invites Macon to dinner, he proposes they have another baby to resolve their marital issues, but Sarah instead tells Macon she wants a divorce and cites his seemingly callous reaction after Ethan’s death and lack of comfort to her as her reason.

The SuperSummary difference

  • 8x more resources than SparkNotes and CliffsNotes combined
  • Study Guides you won ' t find anywhere else
  • 175 + new titles every month

After Macon gets his cast off, he flies to New York for work. He visits a skyscraper restaurant, where he has a panic attack after realizing he’s distanced himself from everyone he’s ever cared about. He calls home to ask for help despite his siblings being states away and learns that Edward is misbehaving and has cornered Charles in the pantry. Macon has no one else to call to help Charles and take Edward, so he calls Muriel and asks for her help. Not only does Muriel agree to rescue Charles, but she also comforts Macon and talks him down from his panic. When Macon returns from New York, he allows Muriel to begin training Edward again, and the two begin to spend a lot more time together. Muriel tells Macon all about her life and her son, Alexander. She invites Macon to come to dinner at her house, but Macon is afraid to do so, thinking it will feel like he’s finding substitutes for Sarah and Ethan.

When Macon goes to deliver a letter to Muriel to explain why he won’t have dinner with her, she surprises him with her tenderness, and Macon opens up about his grief regarding Ethan and the way he’s distanced himself from everyone. Muriel invites Macon to sleep in her bed, and he allows her to lead him to her room and tuck him in. Macon begins to spend much more time with Muriel and Alexander, eating dinner with them, helping Alexander with his homework, and joining them at Muriel’s parents’ house for Christmas. Macon’s relationship with Muriel heals him and helps him become less distant from the people around him. He moves in with her and gets to know the people of her street better than he ever knew his own neighbors. He forms a special bond with Alexander, teaching him to fix household items and taking him shopping for clothes.

Eventually, Muriel’s tendencies begin to wear Macon down. He is bothered by her misuse of words, her persistence, her insecurities, and her chaos. Muriel tries to convince Macon to take her to France, but Macon tells her no. Muriel presents Macon a calendar for the current year to show him she’s picked out a wedding day for them. Macon tells her he’s not interested in marrying again because he thinks only perfect couples get married, which leads to an argument and more tension between the couple as time passes.

After encountering Sarah at a wedding, Macon finds Sarah reaching out to him more and more during a trip to Canada. Sarah calls him in every city, at first asking if she can move back into their house because her lease is ending, then just wanting to talk about the weather. She hints that she wants to get back together with Macon and tells him she wishes she were with him in Canada. When Macon lands back in Baltimore, he drives home to Sarah instead of driving to Muriel’s house. They rekindle their relationship, much to Muriel’s heartbreak. Macon and Sarah begin to put their lives back together, buying new furniture and reassembling the house after it was damaged in a snowstorm during Macon’s absence. When Sarah is not around, Macon finds himself longing to talk to someone. He calls Muriel to ask about Alexander’s allergy shots, and Muriel scolds him for having the audacity to contact her about Alexander after abandoning them.

When Macon leaves for France, Muriel shows up on his same flight, having booked the same hotel. Muriel insists that Macon needs her, and Macon feels Muriel will be extremely unprepared to travel in Paris. Macon does his best to avoid Muriel, and she gets along fine without him. He eventually agrees to have dinner with her at a Burger King in Paris, where Muriel fills Macon in about the people on her street. She asks him to come to bed with her, but Macon declines. After several days in Paris, Macon starts day trips to other cities. When he goes to invite Muriel to join him, he throws his back out and becomes incapacitated. He calls his publisher to inform him of the delay, and word gets back to Sarah, who shows up in Paris to take care of Macon. She informs Macon that she saw Muriel, and he tells her that she followed him to France on her own accord. Sarah becomes excited about having a second honeymoon with Macon while they’re in France. One night, she asks Macon why he didn’t do anything to stop Muriel from getting on the plane with him. Macon doesn’t have an answer and realizes he’s never made any major life decisions on his own. Everything that has happened to him has resulted from passively accepting things. He stays up all night thinking and eventually decides to return to Muriel, realizing she is better for him.

blurred text

Don't Miss Out!

Access Study Guide Now

Related Titles

By Anne Tyler

Guide cover placeholder

A Patchwork Planet

Guide cover image

A Spool of Blue Thread

Guide cover image

Average Waves in Unprotected Waters

Guide cover placeholder

Breathing Lessons

Guide cover image

Clock Dance

Guide cover placeholder

Digging to America

Guide cover image

Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant

Guide cover image

French Braid

Guide cover image

Redhead by the Side of the Road

Saint Maybe

Guide cover image

Teenage Wasteland

Vinegar Girl

Featured Collections

Coping with Death

View Collection

National Book Critics Circle Award...

New York Times Best Sellers

Pulitzer Prize Fiction Awardees &...

Valentine's Day Reads: The Theme of Love

Profile Picture




by Anne Tyler ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 11, 1985

How do "impossible" couples evolve? In this most recent, luminous novel by Tyler, a "fairly chilly" man, muffled in loneliness, learns that a man and a woman can come together "for reasons the rest of the world would never guess." One can leave the principality of self to tour another's—to love "the surprise of her. . .the surprise of himself when he was with her." Macon Leary, married to Sarah, is an author of travel books for businessmen whose "concern was how to pretend they had never left home"—who want safe and comforting accommodations and food, who want to travel "without a jolt." Macon and Sarah, devastated by the senseless murder of their 12-year-old son in a fast-food shop holdup, are about to part. Sarah will leave this man that she claims remains "unchanged," who refuses to argue with the knowledge that the world is vile. Immobilized by a broken leg (was that accident an unconscious wish?), Macon will settle in with the family he started with—two brothers (one divorced) and sister Rose—in ultimate safety, where like plump, brooding fowl, the four deliberate in soothing converse, rearrange the straws of domesticity, Enter the "impossible" Muriel Pritchett, shrill as a macaw, single mother of a pale, wretched young boy, scrabbling for a living at various jobs, and existing messily on a cacophonous Baltimore street. Muriel has arrived at the Leary compound to whip into line Edward, Macon's pugnacious Welsh corgi who's fond of treeing bicyclists and family members. Muriel cows Edward while talking nonstop, and gradually Macon will find himself in "another country" of noise and color, where red slippers with feathers are necessary accessories to a woman in the morning. From a perspective where Macon feels he's a "vast distance from everyone who mattered" and a marriage where he and his wife seem to have "used each other up," Macon will find in foreignness his own "soft heart." Again in Tyler's tender, quiet prose, a delicate sounding of the odd and accidental incursions of the heart. Tone-perfect, and probably her best to date.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 1985

ISBN: 0345452003

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1985


Share your opinion of this book

More by Anne Tyler



by Anne Tyler



by Mark Z. Danielewski ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2000

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest ) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

More by Mark Z. Danielewski


by Mark Z. Danielewski


Awards & Accolades

Readers Vote

Our Verdict

Our Verdict

Kirkus Reviews' Best Books Of 2019

New York Times Bestseller

IndieBound Bestseller


by Sally Rooney ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2019

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends , in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

More by Sally Rooney


by Sally Rooney


More About This Book

Our Editor-in-Chief Surveys the Best of 2019 and Picks Some Favorites


Here Are Barack Obama’s Favorite Books From His 2019 Reading


Normal People TV-Series Teaser Released


  • Discover Books Fiction Thriller & Suspense Mystery & Detective Romance Science Fiction & Fantasy Nonfiction Biography & Memoir Teens & Young Adult Children's
  • News & Features Bestsellers Book Lists Profiles Perspectives Awards Seen & Heard Book to Screen Kirkus TV videos In the News
  • Kirkus Prize Winners & Finalists About the Kirkus Prize Kirkus Prize Judges
  • Magazine Current Issue All Issues Manage My Subscription Subscribe
  • Writers’ Center Hire a Professional Book Editor Get Your Book Reviewed Advertise Your Book Launch a Pro Connect Author Page Learn About The Book Industry
  • More Kirkus Diversity Collections Kirkus Pro Connect My Account/Login
  • About Kirkus History Our Team Contest FAQ Press Center Info For Publishers
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms & Conditions
  • Reprints, Permission & Excerpting Policy

© Copyright 2024 Kirkus Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Go To Top

Popular in this Genre

Close Quickview

Hey there, book lover.

We’re glad you found a book that interests you!

Please select an existing bookshelf

Create a new bookshelf.

We can’t wait for you to join Kirkus!

Please sign up to continue.

It’s free and takes less than 10 seconds!

Already have an account? Log in.

Sign in with Google

Trouble signing in? Retrieve credentials.

Almost there!

  • Industry Professional

Welcome Back!

Sign in using your Kirkus account

Contact us: 1-800-316-9361 or email [email protected].

Don’t fret. We’ll find you.

Magazine Subscribers ( How to Find Your Reader Number )

If You’ve Purchased Author Services

Don’t have an account yet? Sign Up.

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

LitLovers Logo

  • Getting Started
  • Start a Book Club
  • Book Club Ideas/Help▼
  • Our Featured Clubs ▼
  • Popular Books
  • Book Reviews
  • Reading Guides
  • Blog Home ▼
  • Find a Recipe
  • About LitCourse
  • Course Catalog

Amazon Prime includes:

Fast, FREE Delivery is available to Prime members. To join, select "Try Amazon Prime and start saving today with Fast, FREE Delivery" below the Add to Cart button.

  • Cardmembers earn 5% Back at with a Prime Credit Card.
  • Unlimited Free Two-Day Delivery
  • Streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with limited ads on Prime Video.
  • A Kindle book to borrow for free each month - with no due dates
  • Listen to over 2 million songs and hundreds of playlists
  • Unlimited photo storage with anywhere access

Important:  Your credit card will NOT be charged when you start your free trial or if you cancel during the trial period. If you're happy with Amazon Prime, do nothing. At the end of the free trial, your membership will automatically upgrade to a monthly membership.

Audible Logo

Buy new: .savingPriceOverride { color:#CC0C39!important; font-weight: 300!important; } .reinventMobileHeaderPrice { font-weight: 400; } #apex_offerDisplay_mobile_feature_div .reinventPriceSavingsPercentageMargin, #apex_offerDisplay_mobile_feature_div .reinventPricePriceToPayMargin { margin-right: 4px; } -27% $13.19 $ 13 . 19 FREE delivery Wednesday, May 29 on orders shipped by Amazon over $35 Ships from: Sold by:

Return this item for free.

Free returns are available for the shipping address you chose. You can return the item for any reason in new and unused condition: no shipping charges

  • Go to your orders and start the return
  • Select the return method

Save with Used - Good .savingPriceOverride { color:#CC0C39!important; font-weight: 300!important; } .reinventMobileHeaderPrice { font-weight: 400; } #apex_offerDisplay_mobile_feature_div .reinventPriceSavingsPercentageMargin, #apex_offerDisplay_mobile_feature_div .reinventPricePriceToPayMargin { margin-right: 4px; } $6.98 $ 6 . 98 FREE delivery Tuesday, June 4 on orders shipped by Amazon over $35 Ships from: Amazon Sold by: ZBK Books

Kindle app logo image

Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required .

Read instantly on your browser with Kindle for Web.

Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.

QR code to download the Kindle App

Follow the author

Anne Tyler

Image Unavailable

The Accidental Tourist: A Novel

  • To view this video download Flash Player

The Accidental Tourist: A Novel Paperback – April 9, 2002

Purchase options and add-ons.

  • Print length 352 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Vintage
  • Publication date April 9, 2002
  • Dimensions 5.13 x 0.76 x 8 inches
  • ISBN-10 0345452003
  • ISBN-13 978-0345452009
  • Lexile measure 890L
  • See all details

The Amazon Book Review

Frequently bought together

The Accidental Tourist: A Novel

Similar items that may ship from close to you

French Braid: A novel

Get to know this book

What's it about.

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

Popular highlight

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

Editorial Reviews

From the back cover, about the author, excerpt. © reprinted by permission. all rights reserved., product details.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vintage; Reprint edition (April 9, 2002)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0345452003
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0345452009
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 890L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.13 x 0.76 x 8 inches
  • #2,472 in Family Life Fiction (Books)
  • #7,345 in Literary Fiction (Books)
  • #23,670 in Contemporary Romance (Books)

About the author

Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her bestselling novels include Breathing Lessons, The Accidental Tourist, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Ladder of Years, Back When We Were Grownups, A Patchwork Planet, The Amateur Marriage, Digging to America, A Spool of Blue Thread, Vinegar Girl and Clock Dance.

In 1989 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons; in 1994 she was nominated by Roddy Doyle and Nick Hornby as 'the greatest novelist writing in English'; in 2012 she received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence; and in 2015 A Spool of Blue Thread was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize.

Customer reviews

Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

  • Sort reviews by Top reviews Most recent Top reviews

Top reviews from the United States

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. please try again later..

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

Top reviews from other countries

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Sell on Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Become an Amazon Hub Partner
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Consumer Health Data Privacy Disclosure
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Sean O’Grady
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Fitness & Wellbeing
  • Food & Drink
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Car Insurance Deals
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Broadband deals
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Solar Panels
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos
  • Wine Offers

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

Book Of A Lifetime: The Accidental Tourist, By Anne Tyler

Article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

Breaking News

For free real time breaking news alerts sent straight to your inbox sign up to our breaking news emails

Sign up to our free breaking news emails, thanks for signing up to the breaking news email.

Asking a book lover to choose her book of a lifetime is a little like asking Casanova to pick his love of a lifetime; but if I have to, that book must be 'The Accidental Tourist' by Anne Tyler. A friend's mother recommended it to me back in the Eighties. We were sitting on the veranda while the slow sun set over the dark-blue North Sea and I was bemoaning the lack of "my kind of books". By this, I meant books that combined the best qualities of literary and commercial fiction the way the classics do; books where the writer's voice and view of the world delights and surprises, where the story and the characters seduce you along from page to page.

Mrs von Sydow handed me a copy of 'The Accidental Tourist' and I embarked on a lifelong love affair with the quietly stunning, quirky and oh-so humane writing of Anne Tyler. Like all Tyler's novels, 'The Accidental Tourist' combines comedy and tragedy without veering into farce or sentimentality. It's a novel that runs deep and showcases her ability to make the everyday both entirely recognisable and extraordinary.

Macon Leary is a travel writer who hates travel and the entire purpose of his guides is to make the traveller feel as if he had never left home. "Other travellers hoped to discover distinctive local wines; Macon's readers searched for pasteurized and homogenized milk." The novel starts on a sombre note. A year after their young son was killed, Macon's wife Sarah wants a divorce. But tragic is not the same as depressing, and Anne Tyler doesn't do depressing.

By chapter two I'm smiling at Macon's attempts to "systemize" his life now he was free of the woman who "stored her flatware intermingled". But when he falls and breaks his legs, he and Edward the dog are forced to move back with his three siblings who have all, one way or another, ended up back in the family home. The chapters spent in the company of the gentle, other-worldly, infuriating Leary siblings are some of my favourites. Edward, however, deals with his feelings of loss by biting strangers.

Macon calls on Muriel the dog trainer to help sort Edward out. Muriel, with her mass of dark hair, sharp face and eyes "like caraway seeds", is the devoted single mother to a small endearingly wheezy, pasty-faced son. Muriel never shuts up and doesn't know the meaning of the word "routine". Like Macon, I'm not sure that I approve of Muriel or her dog-training methods. But a relationship develops and Macon's frozen heart begins to thaw. When Sarah gets in touch and wants her husband back, he is not alone in being in two minds about what to do.

This novel, full of wisdom and writing that sneaks up on you with its brilliance, its insights, and its sheer humanity, gave me back my appetite for reading - while its author became an enduring professional role-model.

Marika Cobbold's new novel is 'Drowning Rose' (Bloomsbury)

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre

The Accidental Tourist

by Anne Tyler

The accidental tourist summary and analysis of chapters one, two, and three.

Macon and Sarah Leary return early from a trip to the beach. On the car ride home, it starts pouring heavy rain. Sarah is concerned that Macon cannot see properly through the windshield, but he continues to drive, assuring her it’s fine. She recalls to him a recent situation where she asked him if there was a point to life after the death of their son Ethan , to which he responded that there had never been any point. Sarah accuses him of never properly comforting her. Then, abruptly, she says she wants a divorce.

The next chapter flashes forward to after the divorce. Since Sarah has left, Macon finds that their Baltimore house seems smaller rather than larger. Some of the objects in the house continue to remind Macon of Sarah, such as the outdoor chaise and kitchen radio. Macon has always used a “system” to organize his life, including the house; this is something that Sarah never understood. In Sarah’s absence, Macon has adopted several strange habits, such as washing clothes in the bathtub while he showers, and sleeping in a “body bag” instead of normal linens. Macon considers how together, he and Sarah had kept each other more rational; now, separated, they are wandering “wildly off course.”

Macon works from home writing travel guides for people forced to take business trips, something he finds ridiculous as he hates to travel. His guides emphasize how Americans can feel at home in foreign cities, and he enjoys the writing aspect of the work. Macon’s sister Rose calls him and is surprised to hear that Macon and Sarah have separated. Macon only admits to this when Rose asks to speak to Sarah. Macon asks Rose not to take Sarah’s side.

Macon can hardly eat real meals anymore and he loses weight. He has a terrible time sleeping at night, his brain consumed with worries. He ponders why his 20-year relationship has ended, noting that, towards the end, Sarah and Macon acted more like rivals rather than as a couple. Their son Ethan only brought out their differences more; they had very different parenting styles. Ethan was murdered at the age of 13 at a fast-food restaurant while away at summer camp. Macon is not sure whom to blame.

One day, Sarah calls Macon and asks if she can come by to pick up her rug. She wants to come by the next day, but Macon is leaving for a business trip to England. The two discuss how they have both have been depressed, barely able to eat and get out of bed in the morning. Sarah reveals the rage she feels for the person who killed their son.

The next day, Macon prepares to leave for his trip. First, he drives to the veterinary to drop off his dog, Edward . The vet receptionist will not accept Edward after seeing in Macon’s file that the dog has previously bitten a staff member. Angry, Macon leaves and wonders what to do with his pet. He goes to an animal hospital and the receptionist there says he needs a reservation in order to board a dog. Macon explains the desperate situation; the receptionist, named Muriel Pritchett , inquires about Macon’s wife and why she can’t watch the dog. Macon has to inform her that he is divorced, and she tells him that she is also a divorcee.

Macon is on his flight from the U.S. to London. He tries to avoid conversation with the people seated next to him and partakes in his usual routine of flossing in the bathroom and reading from a 1,000-page book. He thinks back to a time when he and Ethan were planning to go to a movie. Once in London, Macon makes his rounds of various hotels and American-style restaurants, jotting down notes about the quality of the coffee, breakfast, and comfort of the mattresses.

After four days, he already wants to go back home; he tries to look for return tickets but can’t find any, so he decides to stay the full week. On his trip home, he thinks of Sarah again and how she used to pick him up at the airport. Macon goes to get Edward from the kennel and Muriel Pritchett tells him the dog was well behaved. She not-so-subtly shows her interest in Macon, informing him that she is a professional dog-trainer and giving him her business card. Macon is uninterested, takes Edward, and goes home, feeling once again the absence of Sarah as soon as he walks through the door.

The book opens right as the relationship between Macon and Sarah Leary falls apart. The death of their 13-year-old son Ethan has happened before the story even begins, and it colors all of the events that take place. Anne Tyler encapsulates the tension between a married couple who has lost their child in the car, where a patch of heavy rain symbolizes how their emotional dynamic has run its course. Macon’s driving in the rain despite Sarah’s pleas to pull over seems like a minor enough incident; however, it is enough to trigger Sarah to declare she wants a divorce, as she realizes that Macon is incapable of being receptive to her needs and feelings.

We are shown how Macon’s life disintegrates once Sarah leaves him. Macon has very strict living habits, which he calls “systems,” that border on compulsions. After Sarah moves out, these tendencies become all the more strange and rigid, such as washing clothes in the tub while he showers or eating buttery popcorn for breakfast. His obsessive behavior can be inferred to be a sort of coping mechanism for the grief he is experiencing at the loss of his relationship, as well as the earlier death of his son. His peculiar mental rituals bar Macon from allowing himself to fully process his emotions and start creating a new life for himself.

Sarah, whose life is more peripheral for the reader in these first chapters, is also clearly struggling with huge changes. In a telephone conversation with Macon, we learn that she is almost too depressed to get out of bed every morning. She is holding onto a lot of anger about the murder of Ethan, speaking about her fantasy of getting a gun and putting her son’s killer to death. This disturbs Macon, and he tells his ex-wife that this sort of anger is harmful to both of them. Macon’s controlled and contained way of dealing with emotions and suppressing anger is at odds with Sarah’s more effusive emotions.

Anne Tyler also portrays the typical difficulty in ending a longterm marriage in the way Macon feels the presence of the different objects in the house—objects which had a special connection to his ex-wife. He even feels at certain moments that Sarah is still in the house, watching him go about his daily business. It is significant when Macon observes that his house now feels smaller, not bigger, without Sarah. This demonstrates that when we are on our own, left in our familiar thoughts and routines, our life can seem to shrink regardless of the physical space we occupy.

Much of the text of these chapters consists of dialogue, a good way of getting the reader acquainted with the main characters. The exchange of conversation between Macon and the staff at the animal hospital, for example, reflect Macon’s continuous grief and disinterest in life, where he tries to keep his personal interactions at a minimum. Throughout his daily chores and his business trip to London, his main focus of attention seems to be Sarah: fantasies of her returning home, memories of her picking him up from the airport, and so on. These recollections haunt Macon, seeming to stand in way of fully engaging his responsibilities, instead making him hide away from other people and from life itself—whether it is in his hotel room in England or behind a book in his plane seat.

GradeSaver will pay $15 for your literature essays

The Accidental Tourist Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Accidental Tourist is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Standing water in the road is compared to a wide lake.

A wide lake, it seemed, in the center of the highway crashed against the underside of the car and slammed it to the right.

How does Macon meet Muriel?

Macon meets Muriel when he hires her to train his dog.

How is Macon described in Chapter 1?

From the text:

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.

Study Guide for The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist study guide contains a biography of Anne Tyler, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Accidental Tourist
  • The Accidental Tourist Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Accidental Tourist

The Accidental Tourist essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.

  • The Accidental Acceptance: Family and Modernity in 'The Accidental Tourist' and 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant'

Lesson Plan for The Accidental Tourist

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Accidental Tourist
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Accidental Tourist Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for The Accidental Tourist

  • Introduction
  • Plot summary

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!

Internet Archive Audio

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • This Just In
  • Grateful Dead
  • Old Time Radio
  • 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings
  • Audio Books & Poetry
  • Computers, Technology and Science
  • Music, Arts & Culture
  • News & Public Affairs
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Radio News Archive

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • Flickr Commons
  • Occupy Wall Street Flickr
  • NASA Images
  • Solar System Collection
  • Ames Research Center

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • All Software
  • Old School Emulation
  • MS-DOS Games
  • Historical Software
  • Classic PC Games
  • Software Library
  • Kodi Archive and Support File
  • Vintage Software
  • CD-ROM Software
  • CD-ROM Software Library
  • Software Sites
  • Tucows Software Library
  • Shareware CD-ROMs
  • Software Capsules Compilation
  • CD-ROM Images
  • ZX Spectrum
  • DOOM Level CD

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • Lincoln Collection
  • American Libraries
  • Canadian Libraries
  • Universal Library
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Children's Library
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Books by Language
  • Additional Collections

synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  • Prelinger Archives
  • Democracy Now!
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • TV NSA Clip Library
  • Animation & Cartoons
  • Arts & Music
  • Computers & Technology
  • Cultural & Academic Films
  • Ephemeral Films
  • Sports Videos
  • Videogame Videos
  • Youth Media

Search the history of over 866 billion web pages on the Internet.

Mobile Apps

  • Wayback Machine (iOS)
  • Wayback Machine (Android)

Browser Extensions

Archive-it subscription.

  • Explore the Collections
  • Build Collections

Save Page Now

Capture a web page as it appears now for use as a trusted citation in the future.

Please enter a valid web address

  • Donate Donate icon An illustration of a heart shape

The accidental tourist

Bookreader item preview, share or embed this item, flag this item for.

  • Graphic Violence
  • Explicit Sexual Content
  • Hate Speech
  • Misinformation/Disinformation
  • Marketing/Phishing/Advertising
  • Misleading/Inaccurate/Missing Metadata

[WorldCat (this item)]

plus-circle Add Review comment Reviews

4 Favorites

Better World Books


No suitable files to display here.


Uploaded by station22.cebu on October 30, 2021

SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata)


  1. The Accidental Tourist: Tyler, Anne: 9780394556734: Books

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  2. The Accidental Tourist by TYLER, Anne: Near Fine Softcover (1985) First

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  3. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  4. The Accidental Tourist: Tyler, Anne: 9780425092910: Books

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  5. The Accidental Tourist

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler

  6. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

    synopsis of the accidental tourist anne tyler


  1. Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)

  2. The Accidental Tourist (1988)


  4. The Accidental Tourist

  5. Visiting The Gravesite Of An ACCIDENTAL U.S. PRESIDENT Who's Buried Near Niagara Falls

  6. Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe


  1. The Accidental Tourist Summary and Study Guide

    Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist is a literary fiction novel that follows the character-driven story of Macon Leary, who must navigate life following the death of his son and the dissolution of his marriage. The Accidental Tourist was originally published in 1985 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.The Accidental Tourist is Anne Tyler's 10th novel and one of her most recognized works.

  2. The Accidental Tourist

    The Accidental Tourist is a 1985 novel by Anne Tyler that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1985 and the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction in 1986. The novel was adapted into a 1988 award-winning film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and Geena Davis, for which Davis won an Academy Award.

  3. The Accidental Tourist Summary

    The Accidental Tourist opens with Macon and Sarah Leary driving back home to Baltimore in the rain after a vacation at the beach. When Macon refuses to stop the car, Sarah suddenly announces that she wants a divorce. She accuses Macon of being incapable of comforting her, especially after the tragic murder of their 12-year-old son, Ethan.

  4. The Accidental Tourist Summary

    Complete summary of Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist. eNotes plot summaries cover all the significant action of The Accidental Tourist.

  5. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

    The Accidental Tourist was the 1985 novel by Anne Tyler (born 1941). A finalist at Pulitzer Prize and won the National Book Critics Award Circle for Fiction. the novel was adapted into a 1988 award-winning film starring William Hurt (as Macon Leary), Kathleen Turner (Sarah, his estranged wife) and Geena Davis (Muriel, the dog trainer).

  6. The Accidental Tourist Analysis

    Form and Content. Anne Tyler's The Accidental Tourist is a novel about pain, isolation, and the rebirth of the human spirit. Each character in Tyler's novel has been broken by the world ...

  7. The Accidental Tourist Study Guide

    The Accidental Tourist is a novel written by the American author Anne Tyler in 1985. The novel revolves around a protagonist named Macon Leary, a middle-aged writer of travel guides. Macon and his wife of 20 years, Sarah, struggle to maintain their relationship after their son is tragically killed in a random murder at a fast-food restaurant.


    The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year. 10. Pub Date: March 6, 2000. ISBN: -375-70376-4.

  9. Accidental Tourist (Tyler)

    The Accidental Tourist. Anne Tyler, 1985. Random House. 352pp. ISBN-13: 9780345452009. Summary. 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 ...

  10. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler: 9780345452009

    About The Accidental Tourist. NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning author—an irresistible novel exploring the slippery alchemy of attracting opposites, and the struggle to rebuild one's life after unspeakable tragedy. Travel writer Macon Leary hates travel, adventure, surprises, and anything outside of his ...

  11. The Accidental Tourist: A Novel

    Books. The Accidental Tourist: A Novel. Anne Tyler. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Dec 18, 2007 - Fiction - 352 pages. NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning author—an irresistible novel exploring the slippery alchemy of attracting opposites, and the struggle to rebuild one's life after unspeakable ...

  12. The Accidental Tourist (film)

    The Accidental Tourist is a 1988 American romantic drama film directed and co-produced by Lawrence Kasdan, from a screenplay by Frank Galati and Kasdan, based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Anne Tyler.The film stars William Hurt as Macon Leary, a middle-aged travel writer whose life and marriage have been shattered by the tragic death of his son. It also stars Kathleen Turner and Geena ...

  13. The Accidental Tourist: A Novel: Tyler, Anne ...

    The Accidental Tourist: A Novel. Paperback - April 9, 2002. Travel writer Macon Leary hates travel, adventure, surprises, and anything outside of his routine. Immobilized by grief, Macon is becoming increasingly prickly and alone, anchored by his solitude and an unwillingness to compromise his creature comforts.

  14. Book Of A Lifetime: The Accidental Tourist, By Anne Tyler

    The novel starts on a sombre note. A year after their young son was killed, Macon's wife Sarah wants a divorce. But tragic is not the same as depressing, and Anne Tyler doesn't do depressing. By ...

  15. The Accidental Tourist Chapters Four, Five, and Six Summary and

    The Accidental Tourist study guide contains a biography of Anne Tyler, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Best summary PDF, themes, and quotes.

  16. The Accidental Tourist Chapters One, Two, and Three Summary and

    The Accidental Tourist Summary and Analysis of Chapters One, Two, and Three. Summary. Macon and Sarah Leary return early from a trip to the beach. On the car ride home, it starts pouring heavy rain. Sarah is concerned that Macon cannot see properly through the windshield, but he continues to drive, assuring her it's fine.

  17. The accidental tourist : Tyler, Anne, author

    The accidental tourist ... The accidental tourist by Tyler, Anne, author. Publication date 2008 Topics High interest-low vocabulary books, Readers ... Meanwhile, he has to get on with his work, writing tourist guides for business people. Then his dog Edward starts to bite people, and he has to send for Muriel, the dog trainer. And day by day ...