Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
by Anne Tyler
The Tull family, led by demanding matriarch Pearl, is made up of a mishmash of three very different siblings. There’s the competitive and insecure eldest, Cody; the eternal optimist and quiet-natured Ezra, and Jenny, determined but cautious. The story is told in such compassionate detail from the perspective of each person in the family in turn. The rotating narrative takes us through their lives giving us a peak into the way each one thinks.
I wasn’t a fan of Tyler’s after The Accidental Tourist, but this novel changed my mind. It’s reminiscent of other novels about dysfunctional families (As I Lay Dying and This is Where I Leave You), but it’s also wholly its own story. The father figure is absent and the lonely life they lead is rarely intruded upon by others. Tyler’s skill as a writer makes even the unsympathetic characters become relatable. You may not like them or what they’re doing, but you can somehow understand why they’re doing it.
BOTTOM LINE: A beautifully written story of a family that both desperately needs each other and can hardly function together. Just beneath the surface there is so much hurt, jealousy and resentment, but there is also a cord of similarity and shared experience that holds them all together. A wonderful book with characters that felt achingly real.
“Everything else - the cold dark of the streets, the picture of her own bustling mother - seemed brittle by comparison, lacking the smoothly rounded completeness of Josiah's life.”
“Pearl thought, how people displayed their characters in every little thing they undertook.”
“Wasn't that what a marriage ought to be? Like one of those movie-style disasters-shipwrecks or earthquakes or enemy prisons-where strangers, trapped in close quarters by circumstance, show their real strengths and weaknesses.”