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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) (original 1982; edition 1996)

by Anne Tyler

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2,554502,359 (3.87)122
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Title:Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Authors:Anne Tyler
Info:Ballantine Books (1996), Edition: First, Paperback, 303 pages
Collections:Your library, Read, owned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:R 13, to Connie 1-13 retd 2-13, to Arlynn 11-13 ret'd 7-14

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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (1982)

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Plot summary: As 85 year old Pearl Tull lies on her deathbed, she thinks back over her life. The defining moment for Pearl was 35 years before, when her husband walked out on her and her three young children. Pearl struggled to raise her children and provide for them, always searching for the reasons why she was abandoned.
Her children, Ezra, Cody and Jenny reflect on their upbringing, the decisions they made and the events that shaped their lives forever. With shifting perspectives, their memories all combine to paint a fuller picture of the Tulls, their lives and their relationships with each other. ( )
  dalzan | Oct 6, 2014 |
This review (and others) can also be found at http://coffeetalkwitherin.com/2014/06/09/review-dinner-at-the-homesick-restauran...

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a wonderful book. It is the first Anne Tyler I have read (and wont be the last). After watching The ABC Book Club discuss the story in May, I promptly purchased it from my favourite bookstore. It sat there patiently while I completed my final reports for my Masters degree, and read a few other books (some of which I did not finish – I seem to be doing that a lot, not finishing books – how things have changed).

Im glad I did not try to read this book while my head was still filled with academia and education. It is a personal read and it is one that requires focused reading times without distractions. It isn’t the type of book you read alongside the dozens of others you have sitting unfinished on your nightstand. This one must be read alone.

The book is about a family and begins with a woman, Pearl, who is about to die. Her son is sitting by her bed, and her daughter is on her way. Her other son is out of contact and she is ready to go. She begins to look back on her life as a mother. She wants to make sure that her husband who deserted her (and the children) thirty-five years ago is invited to the funeral. She remembers that day when he left her and the children, and begins to see her own failings (although who could blame her, she thinks, after hanging on by a thread raising three children alone).

The family story is told from multiple perspectives. I loved that about it. Just when we think we think a character is black and white absurd, we are shown the layers in their behaviour. We see the rivalry between eldest boy, Cody, who never quite lives up to his dreamy and “good” brother, Ezra. Jenny is flighty, hardly settling down. Each are victims of their mother’s moods in their own way. The book makes you angry at Pearl for being so harsh, for favouring Ezra, and beating Jenny and causing such a rift between two brothers that lasts a lifetime. It makes you want to shake Ezra, when he loses his one love, or Jenny for being so clueless or Cody, for being such a horrible person. But the depth and complexity of each character, and of the family as a whole reminds you that there are reasons that each of them are this way. You see some of your own failures in each of them. Perhaps you see some parts of your own family (not too much in my case, thank goodness).

I loved the way that Pearl, good or bad, remained so central to all of her children throughout their lives. They may have hated or loved her but she guided them, and all of their relationships beyond the childhood home. She complained often about the breakdown of her family, often shown in the way they could never sit down to an entire meal at Ezra’s Homesick Restaurant without somebody getting the shits and walking out. But, whether her influence was positive or not, it remained so until she died and beyond.

Anne Tyler captured families, in all of their complexity, in such a brilliant way. We are tied to our family, whether we like it or not. It was as if everything and nothing happened in the plot but I still couldn’t shake the way it affected me. I thought about the role I play in my family and as a mother. The books that affect us and make us reflect on our own lives are the ones that are truly great. I highly recommend this book, because all of us have a family, and a mother. ( )
  Erin.Patel | Aug 22, 2014 |
This review (and others) can also be found at http://coffeetalkwitherin.com/2014/06/09/review-dinner-at-the-homesick-restauran...

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a wonderful book. It is the first Anne Tyler I have read (and wont be the last). After watching The ABC Book Club discuss the story in May, I promptly purchased it from my favourite bookstore. It sat there patiently while I completed my final reports for my Masters degree, and read a few other books (some of which I did not finish – I seem to be doing that a lot, not finishing books – how things have changed).

Im glad I did not try to read this book while my head was still filled with academia and education. It is a personal read and it is one that requires focused reading times without distractions. It isn’t the type of book you read alongside the dozens of others you have sitting unfinished on your nightstand. This one must be read alone.

The book is about a family and begins with a woman, Pearl, who is about to die. Her son is sitting by her bed, and her daughter is on her way. Her other son is out of contact and she is ready to go. She begins to look back on her life as a mother. She wants to make sure that her husband who deserted her (and the children) thirty-five years ago is invited to the funeral. She remembers that day when he left her and the children, and begins to see her own failings (although who could blame her, she thinks, after hanging on by a thread raising three children alone).

The family story is told from multiple perspectives. I loved that about it. Just when we think we think a character is black and white absurd, we are shown the layers in their behaviour. We see the rivalry between eldest boy, Cody, who never quite lives up to his dreamy and “good” brother, Ezra. Jenny is flighty, hardly settling down. Each are victims of their mother’s moods in their own way. The book makes you angry at Pearl for being so harsh, for favouring Ezra, and beating Jenny and causing such a rift between two brothers that lasts a lifetime. It makes you want to shake Ezra, when he loses his one love, or Jenny for being so clueless or Cody, for being such a horrible person. But the depth and complexity of each character, and of the family as a whole reminds you that there are reasons that each of them are this way. You see some of your own failures in each of them. Perhaps you see some parts of your own family (not too much in my case, thank goodness).

I loved the way that Pearl, good or bad, remained so central to all of her children throughout their lives. They may have hated or loved her but she guided them, and all of their relationships beyond the childhood home. She complained often about the breakdown of her family, often shown in the way they could never sit down to an entire meal at Ezra’s Homesick Restaurant without somebody getting the shits and walking out. But, whether her influence was positive or not, it remained so until she died and beyond.

Anne Tyler captured families, in all of their complexity, in such a brilliant way. We are tied to our family, whether we like it or not. It was as if everything and nothing happened in the plot but I still couldn’t shake the way it affected me. I thought about the role I play in my family and as a mother. The books that affect us and make us reflect on our own lives are the ones that are truly great. I highly recommend this book, because all of us have a family, and a mother. ( )
  Erin.Patel | Aug 22, 2014 |
"Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" is the tale of a dysfunctional family. The players include the wicked physically and mentally abusive mother Pearl Tull, an absentee father, and three children - Cody, Jenny, and Ezra - who suffer the scars of growing up in a household fraught with anger, tension, violence, and insecurity.

The opening scene: It’s 1979 and 82 year old Mother Tull is on her death bed. From there the story drops back in time and is told in ten parts, each segment from the point-of-view of different members of the family.

I was surprised to read that this book was on the short list for the Pulitzer Prize. Certainly Anne Tyler has great writing style and wonderful imagination, but the book’s plot is greatly flawed. The story gives the impression of taking place in a time vacuum and even though the author goes out of her way to insert appropriate memorabilia, the atmosphere never evokes the feeling of eras gone by. Segments of the story seem forced… and consequently stretch the bounds of probability.

Pearl Tull is raising the three children alone after being deserted by her husband. She works at the corner grocery store in a middle-class neighborhood scraping by on a meager pay check, feeding the kids cheap canned meat called Spam for dinner. When she has time off, she is exhausted. Never is it mentioned that she spends time setting a good example for her children, teaching her children, or helping her children... in any way. In fact, she is always cranky and abusive - “a dangerous person - hot breathed and full of rage and unpredictable… which of her children had not felt her stinging slap, with the claw-encased pearl in her engagement ring that could bloody a lip in one flick? Jenny had seen her hurl Cody down a flight of stairs. She’d seen Ezra ducking, elbows raised, warding off an attack. She herself, more than once, had been slammed against a wall, been called ‘serpent’, ‘cockroach’, ‘hideous little sniveling guttersnipe.” And, “the tiniest thing could set her off”. Cody remembered her saying, “I’m going to throw you through a window... I’ll look out the window and laugh at your brains splashed all over the pavement.”

The oldest son Cody is a juvenile delinquent. His sister Jenny is an A student. As the children become teen-agers, Pearl expects them to go to college. This might be normal by todays standards but her children were of college age in 1949 through the mid 1950’s. In reality, during those years, 57% of American students did not even finish high-school and only 2% of women went on the finish college. Yet, Pearl Tull’s neglected, traumatized daughter Jenny not only went to college, but went on to become a doctor. And Cody also graduated college. It is never explained how this could have happened especially from a financial standpoint. Welfare was still at a minimum and I’m not even sure scholarships and student loans existed yet. If they did, women from working homes were certainly not encouraged to pursue a career in the 1950s.

Another example of improbability takes place in 1944 when the Tull family lived in a big three story house with several bathrooms and a shower. In reality, practically no-one had a shower in the 1940s - certainly not a working class family living in a rental. This sort of discrepancy continues throughout the novel. In spite of their poor social standing and lack of money, the Tull family seemed to always be on the upper edge of modern conveniences and high tech appliances and gadgets. They never appeared to be a financially struggling or suffering the social stigma of an absentee dad. And then Jenny gets married (on the advice of a fortune teller) and nonchalantly divorces in 1960. I experienced divorce in the late 1960’s and believe me, there was nothing nonchalant about divorce in those days. At that time there was a strong, very palpable stigma attached to divorce… in the religious community, middle class neighborhoods, and throughout conservative corporate and professional America.

Lastly, some events seemed utterly inconceivable - like the fact that two brothers would have maintained a cordial relationship when one of them eloped with the other’s fiancee. And is it really possible that a father that had been missing for 36 years could suddenly turn up for the mother’s funeral and have a friendly casual dinner with his three children?

These are just a few of the details and scenarios that didn’t ring true and it definitely took all the enjoyment out of reading the book. "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" simply lacked credibility. ( )
  LadyLo | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Every other year or so since 1964, loyal readers pick up their new Anne Tyler novel as they would buy a favored brand of sensible shoe. Each of her nine books is solidly constructed from authentic and durable materials. Yet traditional style and comfort do not necessarily mean dullness. Tyler's characters have character: quirks, odd angles of vision, colorful mean streaks and harmonic longings. They usually live in ordinary settings, like Baltimore, the author's current home, and do not seem to have been overly influenced by the 7 o'clock news. An issue in a Tyler novel is likely to mean a new child; a cause, the reason behind a malfunction in an appliance or a marriage.
added by Shortride | editTime, R. Z. Sheppard (Apr 5, 1982)
 

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While Pearl Tull was dying, a funny thought occurred to her.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0449911594, Paperback)

“Beautiful . . . funny, heart-hammering, wise . . . superb entertainment.”
–The New York Times

“A book that should join those few that every literate person will have to read.”
–The Boston Globe


Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the older son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet, clumsy Ezra, Pearl’s favorite, who never stops yearning for the perfect family that could never be his own.

Now Pearl and her three grown children have gathered together again–with anger, hope, and a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.


“A novelist who knows what a proper story is . . . [Tyler is] not only a good and artful writer, but a wise one as well.”
–Newsweek

“Anne Tyler is surely one of the most satisfying novelists working in America today.”
–Chicago Tribune

“In her ninth novel she has arrived at a new level of power.”
–John Updike, The New Yorker

“Marvelous, astringent, hilarious, [and] strewn with the banana peels of love.”
–Cosmopolitan

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:56 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore's Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the oldest son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet and clumsy Ezra, Pearl's favorite, who never stops yearning for the "perfect" family that could never be his own. Now grown, they have gathered together again-with anger, with hope, and with a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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