This novel is certainly more animated than some of her newer productions, indeed it is a sparkling, hard-to-put-down read from beginning to end. Admittedly an encapsulation of the plot wouldn't endear you much to it - a deserted mother brings up three children who all grow up and live lives through which a fault-line seems to run - but the story turns out to be gripping and compulsive to a high degree.
Much of this is because of the wonderfully strong characterisation - always a strong point with Anne Tyler's work. Cody the eldest boy is anxious and scheming, always in the shade of his loving, good-natured brother Ezra, who is his mother's favourite. Jenny, the only girl is intelligent but needy and although she becomes a doctor she is prey to a lack of self-confidence. Cody remembers only the bad things about growing up with a lone mother - who is by turns indulgent and strict - whereas Ezra always tries to put a positive slant on their shared childhood. Pearl, their mother, has always felt herself to be the outsider in any situation and she preserves her children's separation from the mass of humanity, sometimes at the expense of their future well-being. Their father, a travelling salesman, disappears early from their life and they both do, and do not, feel his lack. Their own marriages are not especially successful and Ezra, in fact, never marries. It is Ezra who runs the Homesick Restaurant, and it is he who always tries to pull the family together, rebuffed on - almost - every occasion.
Very occasionally Anne Tyler writes a line that seems as if more thought should have gone into it - but these are momentary puzzles in what for the most part reads smoothly and assuredly, shining with the knowledge that these people are as real as any you might meet in the street. This book is an absolute pleasure to read.