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    Born in Minneapolis in 1941, Ann Tyler grew up in North Carolina. She lived in a North Carolina Quaker commune before she and her family settled in Raleigh. She studied under novelist Reynolds Price at Duke University in Raleigh, where she won the Anne Flexner Award for creative writing. After her graduation from Duke, at the age of 19, she did graduate work in Russian Studies at Columbia University. In 1963, she married Taghi Mohammed Mondarressi, an Iranian-born psychiatrist. She wrote her first novels while they lived together in Montreal, Quebec. Today they live in Baltimore and she continues to write fiction that explores the lives of characters trapped by the past and unable to truly experience and enjoy life. Tylers novels often explores the possibility of a happy accident that could change the lives of her lonely characters and open new opportunites for personal growth to them. Her eleventh novel, Breathing Lessons, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

   The first of her novels that I read, and my personal favorite, was Accidental Tourist (1985). I also enjoyed the excellent motion picture adaptation, The Accidental Tourist (1985), starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis. Both were funny, touching, and remarkably true to life, albeit the lives of some highly eccentric charcaters.

   Accidental Tourist tells the story of Macon Leary whose marriage has colapsed in the ruins of he and his wifes grief at the loss of their 12-year-old son -- shot in the course of the holdup of a fast food store. He moves in with his two divorced brothers and his spinster sister, thus settling down "safe among the people he'd started out with."

   Macon is a travel writer who hates to travel. In fact, he hates any change from his ordinary routine. He writes a series of guidebooks called Accidental Tourist for businessmen who hate travel as much as he does, or at least nearly as much. He is firmly entrenched in a rut by loneliness and an unwillingness to compromise his creature comforts when he meets Muriel Pritchett, an eccentric and dominating dog-obedience trainer. Muriel turns his insular world upside down. Meeting Muriel thrusts him headlong into a remarkable reengagement with life. This novel chronicles his journey from lonely self-absorption to an 'accidental' new life with Muriel.

   My second favorite among her novels is the 1988 Pullitzer Prize winning novel Breathing Lessons (1988). In this novel, a couple, Ira and Maggie Moran, comes to terms with middle age and the seeming unimportance of their lives. This self examination occurs in the course of a ninety mile drive to attend the funeral the husband of Maggie's oldest friend. While Ira contemplates his wasted life and the traffic, Maggie hatches a plan to reunite her son Jesse with his estranged wife and their baby. During the course of a long day and many detours, both literal and metaphoric, a portrait of their marriage emerges. Breathing Lessons displays Tyler's exceptional ability to reveal the complexity and richness of "ordinary" peoples lives and character.