sunday best #9: “The Accidental Tourist”

The Accidental Tourist
Anne Tyler
First published in 1985 by Knopf

Helen Joyce says:

The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler, is about Macon Leary, the author of a series of guides for business travellers who would rather stay at home. Among the hints he gives his readers: never take anything with you on your journey that is so precious its loss would leave you devastated. In his own life, he fails to take this advice, and the precious thing, his only son, is taken from him, murdered during a robbery in a fast-food joint, and he must try to work out a way to carry on.

Being an Anne Tyler novel, it is of course beautifully written and observed. But the reason it touches me so much, and why I return to it again and again, is to do with when I first read it. I was unwillingly childless (my husband and I have since had two children by IVF) and spending a great deal of my time trying to understand why I so wanted to be a mother. Becoming a parent is the riskiest, most terrifying thing a person can do. Why open myself to the possibility of a loss against which all other losses seem trivial? Why not travel light through life instead?

I’ve come to be grateful for that period of childlessness, because as a result of it I have never, for one instant, forgotten just how lucky I am to be a parent. And this book is strongly associated for me with that period of reflection about parenthood, which for so many people happens by accident.

Helen Joyce
“The Accidental Tourist” is recommended by Helen Joyce.
  • First published: 1985
  • Current availability: Available on Amazon UK

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