by Val Tobin
Agents and editors will often decide whether a book is for them by reading the first page of a manuscript. Many readers also decide to buy a book based on that critical first-page sample. Each month I post the first page of a book and you can vote on whether or not you’d read the book based on the sample.
After you vote, I’ll let you know the title of the book, my reaction to the sample, and why I’d keep reading or why I’d put it down. The goal is to have fun while we explore the beginnings of a variety of books and what compels readers to keep reading.
While I won’t divulge the title or author until you’ve read the piece, I will include the genre and any preliminary items (for example, quotes) you’d see when opening the book on your own.
NOTE: Set aside your preference for or against any specific genre and just focus on the writing. Does it compel you to turn the page and find out what comes next? Base your decision to turn the page on the excerpt’s writing alone.
Genre: Literary Fiction
They were supposed to stay at the beach a week, but neither of them had the heart for it and they decided to come back early. Macon drove. Sarah sat next to him, leaning against the side window. Chips of cloudy sky showed through her tangled brown curls.
Macon wore a formal summer suit, his traveling suit—much more logical for traveling than jeans, he always said. Jeans had those stiff, hard seams and those rivets. Sarah wore a strapless terry beach dress. They might have been returning from two entirely different trips. Sarah had a tan but Macon didn’t. 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. He’d kept away from the sun during the middle part of every day.
Just past the start of the divided highway, the sky grew almost black and several enormous drops spattered the windshield. Sarah sat up straight. “Let’s hope it doesn’t rain,” she said.
“I don’t mind a little rain,” Macon said.
Sarah sat back again, but she kept her eyes on the road.…
Would you turn the page? Vote now.
Today’s Book Revealed
Today’s book is The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.
Blurb from Amazon
How does a man addicted to routine cope with the chaos of everyday life? Macon does his best, writing Armchair Tourist guidebooks that soothe the travel-hating businessman. Even when his son, Ethan, is murdered and his wife leaves him, Macon folds his anguish neatly back into place and adapts the household routine along more efficient lines.
So when he meets Muriel, dog trainer from the Meow-Bow dog clinic – an utterly chaotic, outrageous, vulnerable woman – he considers that his defences against love and pain are in excellent working order.
Combining glorious comedy with aching sadness, Anne Tyler’s novel maps the landscape of one man’s hesitant heart with tenderness, sharpness and exhilarating truth.
Would I Turn the Page?
No, not based on that one page. I enjoy Anne Tyler’s writing, and she always creates quirky characters you can enjoy following, but this page starts off a bit too mundane for me. That’s probably the point, but there’s nothing in it to draw me in.
Macon and Sarah are both dressed as though they’ve been on two different trips. That piece raises a question in the reader about why that might be, but it isn’t enough to hook me and lure me in. It also illustrates their marital life. In fact, this car ride home turns Macon’s life upside down, but we get no hint of that on the first page.
I read the entire book this time around though. I’d bought the hardcover back in 1985 and never read it (never got past the first page—see?) so to force myself to read it, I made it my selection for the book club I belong to. By the time I chose it for our November 2019 read, I’d read other Anne Tyler books, so I knew it would be well written and interesting.
It was both those things, but I was disappointed in the way it ended. I won’t go into detail, but I’ll say that I found it unsatisfying. After I closed the book, I felt let down but okay about it. I’m not sure that’s the emotion the author strove for, but it’s how the story left me feeling.
If any of you have read this, please let me know your thoughts on it.
What do you think?
Does this passage from The Accidental Tourist intrigue you? Does it make you want to turn the page and continue reading? Will you run out now and buy the book? Borrow it?
Val Tobin writes speculative fiction and searches the world over for the perfect butter tart. Her home is in Newmarket, Ontario, where she enjoys writing, reading, and talking about writing and reading.