Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Thursday, December 12, 2013

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.”

**This book came highly recommended from both Jeanne and Adam and once again they were right! 


Bybee said...

This is my favorite of Tyler's novels. I read that it's also her favorite.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

As a book club, we've been debating whether to read this book for years...I think it's time we read it.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Susan - I didn't love the others of her's that I've read, but this one was so good!

Melissa - It would be a good one to discuss in a book club! Lots of family issues and things to debate with nature/nurture, etc. in parenting.

SFP said...

I love this book with all my heart.

Anonymous said...

I loved this one! Makes me want to read more Tyler; it's been a while.

Anonymous said...

I read Accidental Tourist so long ago. I can only remember bits of the movie on that one - I think it might have been the movie that made me realize that books are often the source for great films. Not that I can recall if either book or movie was 'great'! Just that I recall that link, yaknow?
This looks like something I would enjoy.

Meg @ write meg! said...

Tyler is a new-to-me author, but I believe I have Digging to America in my bookcase? Regardless, this sounds like an interesting read. I have to be in the mood for dysfunctional family stories, but when I am . . . well, I'm all up in the drama and discord, and usually loving it.

Kailana said...

I have never read Anne Tyler before. I always sort of meant to!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

SFP - Aww, I love books that make me feel that way.

Carrie - I wasn't sure I would read any more by her and then I tried this one. Now I hope there's another I'll like as much!

bkclubcare - I actually liked the movie more than the book on Accidental Tourist. That doesn't happen very often!

Meg - I haven't read that one yet. This one hit my mood perfectly.

Kailana - I would try this one. I wish I'd started with it!

Jeanne said...

I am so glad you like this one! I worry sometimes about how much I sympathize with both Jenny and Pearl. You'd think sympathizing with both wouldn't even be possible.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jeanne - Ha, I think that speaks to the unique nature of the human spirit and the skill of the writer. She wrote such difficult characters, but it's impossible not to identify with them as you are reading their section of the book!