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Book review: Undoing of a life lived accidentally

Screen success: Turner and Hurt in The Accidental Tourist. Below, Anne Tyler

Redhead By The Side Of The Road

by Anne Tyler (Penguin) ★★★★✩

ANNE TYLER has been around so long she’s become part of the literary furniture and her novels have even found their way on to TV and movie screens (most famously with The Accidental Tourist, starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner).

Tyler’s most recent novel, her 23rd, is a cracker — a deceptively artless portrait of Micah, a bachelor who runs a tech business that serves the needs of the largely elderly local population who aren’t sure what a modem is.

He goes for a run at the same time each morning, cleans his fridge on the same day each week and enjoys thinking of life with his girlfriend, Cass, as a bit like a drive in his Kia — he’s in the driver’s seat, she’s gazing out of the window.

In short, a humdrum, unexamined existence ripe for upset, which duly occurs when the teenage son of an ex-girlfriend turns up.

You’d be hard pressed to sum up precisely what happens but Tyler’s touch is so assured you are held by every word. Micah can’t understand why life has turned out the way it has, why previous relationships ended or why Cass is so upset.

He’s an everyman of the easy-going, self-sufficient type who lets life slip through his fingers, yet Tyler also allows you to see every well-intentioned grain of the man, like the markings on wood.

This is a pleasurable novel about intangible disappointments that wind you in by stealth.