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4.2 out of 5 stars
Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 December 2002
Pearl Tull is dying. As she slips into unconciousness she thinks about her struggle to raise her two sons, Cody and Ezra and her daughter Jenny after her husband walked out on her when they were very young. Now grown up, her children, however, see their childhood quite differently. As family events are told from their varying viewpoints, a complex story of hurt, jealousy, resentment and disappointment arises.
I have never yet read an Ann Tyler novel that disappoints and this is no exception. In her easy style she brilliantly exposes the reality beneath the outer skin. Her characters are so real, you can almost touch them. Sometimes you want to hug them; at other times you want to wring their necks!
Was Pearl a good mother? The answer, as in all Ann Tyler's novels, is yes and no. She did what she thought was best in the circumstances. And is this family any happier or more damaged than any other? The answer again is more complex than any other novel I have read. But this is not a heavy read. It is witty, funny, but above all, true. Wonderful.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2002
This is a delicate loving piece of fiction. What is harder in life than to try to understand the perspective of the other people in our family? Anne Tyler gives us an intimate look at each of the family member's thoughts and from this we draw a large picture of a complex set of family relations. Where else does a family join together but the dinner table? It is a spot of joyous reunions and a catalyst for causing severe fractures, but it is a place where every person in the family ultimately returns. By placing this at the center of her tale she is able to jump of on all the character's many stories. This novel makes you reconsider the point of view of people in your family you might have given up on. Your sympathy always goes with Ezra, forever trying to hold the family together. But you also learn to see the perspective of the other members through hearing small poignant details of their lives from Pearl's apple apple apple to the devastating reunion and confrontation with the missing father at the end. Their actions aren't just quirky details, but strong philosophies by which they live and rich points of difference that cause friction in their relations. This is handled with tremendous sympathy and understanding by the author. Anyone who has had strained relations with members of their family will be able to relate to this book and be wildly entertained by its twists and turns.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2012
Have just re-read this after nearly twenty years - I'm sure I enjoyed it the first time but it's definitely a book that improves with age (of the reader). It's about family; the things that pull people apart and the ties that still hold them tenuously together.
Strong-minded, single mother, Pearl Tull, and her children - Cody, Ezra and Jenny, meet infrequently over the years at Ezra's 'Homesick' restaurant but their meals aren't joyful family reunions and as differences come to a head there's always an argument or upset of some kind.
Tyler tells the story from the perspectives of Pearl, her children and later, grandchildren, so no-one's point of view is ever presented as right - there are no bad characters, simply sympathetic people who see things in their own way.
Even Beck, Pearl's runaway husband, whose character is defined by his absence from the family is ultimately allowed his own say on the family and his life.
Along with The Accidental Tourist, this is one of my favourite Anne Tyler novels. Her books are neither too long or too short, the stories are told with a wry humour and she has an emotional intelligence that enables the reader to see her characters as real, complex personalities.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 1998
A travelling salesman announces to his wife that he is not coming home. Ever. She then proceeds to raise their three children with ferocious energy, suppressing her own fading dreams in the hope that the family she creates will be the central joy in her life. Clever and unfailingly stubborn by nature, she is a fascinating character - one moment lovable and caring, the next a formidable tyrant. This book is a small epic tracing the devlopment through two generations of a troubled small town American family. Tyler's characters are alive and portrayed with remarkable sensitivity. Very moving.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2011
This is the story of a family growing up in Baltimore, centred around the matriarch, Pearl Tull. Pearl is a complicated, angry woman, possessive of her three children at the same time as being fiercely independent. We watch as Pearl lies dying and the family secrets start spilling into the light.

Cody, Ezra and Jenny grow up under the prickly gaze of their mother after their father suddenly decides to leave and never come back. Pearl buries the abandonment with stoic denial, and the kids slowly grow up in to adults - whether they are blessed or cursed by their luck in parents is open to discussion.

This is a melancholy story of family dynamics, abandonment, resentment, disappointment, sibling rivalry and unanswered questions. I really enjoyed it, finding its subtle, slow narrative both emotionally sophisticated and sharp. It's the story of an average family, and as such it is easy to identify with - There is an instant empathy with the touchingly scattered, drifting members of the Tull clan.

The intricacies of family relationships are impossibly complicated, but Taylor's book hits the mark repeatedly, somehow translating something vague and nuanced into something readable and interesting. Don't expect whirlwinds and rollercoasters - in fact, don't even expect neat endings to most of the loose threads - but expect a privileged and sensitive look into the home of a turbulent family, and expect to find many things which produce an eery feeling of familiarity.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Pearl Tull is deserted by her husband - leaving her to bring up Cody, Ezra and Jenny single-handed. At first we are admiring of this woman coping with her husband's betrayal in such a stalwart way. She refuses to mention to anyone that he has gone but just keeps up a pretence that he is simply "working away". But our feelings for her change as she reveals herself to be a shrewish and narrow-minded woman who control her children with a rod of iron.

Ezra is a gawky awkward boy who grows into a gawky awkward adult. Cody is more cunning and competitive and he carries these qualities through into adulthood. Jennie is a more vague character who grows into a rather scatty mother.

There is a lovely portrayal of Scarlatti's restaurant and how Ezra finds fulfilment there - and eventually changes its name to the Homesick Restaurant. But every family meal planned by Ezra is a disaster - someone always storms out in a huff. At times the Tull family seems to be fractured into many tiny pieces because of neglect, jealousy and pride. We wonder if a family filled with so much hurt can in the end find some common affection.

Anne Tyler is a great storyteller. While I would not consider this to be one of her best books it is still a very enjoyable read. Just as the Homesick Restaurant is for comfort eating, this book is for comfort reading!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 January 2009
This is one of my favorite Anne Tyler novels along with An Amateur Marriage, Ladder of Years and The Digging to America. It's powerfully realistic, sentimental, and sad, yet so appealingly familiar and ultimately an absorbing read. Highly recommended for anyone!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2012
Re-reading this book twenty years after I first read it, I want to say how impressed I am with both the quality of the writing and the understanding that Anne Tyler has of the complexity of human relationships. How had I forgotten that she was so good?

I have become accustomed to reading books very quickly - I can read most of the 400 plus page novels that are currently being published in two or three days. This book, 300 pages long, took almost a week. I really felt as though I was being treated to writing of a quality and depth that would seem to be becoming progressively more rare.

The story itself is just about a family - the Tull family, from Pearl Tull as a young woman wondering if she will ever marry, to her marriage to Beck, the birth of three children, the disappearance of Beck and the children as they grow and build their own lives and families. It is a tale that is more full of heartache and misunderstandings than anything else, and, as we are all sons or daughters or brothers or sisters, there is something for us all to recognise in ourselves.

If you have enjoyed The Corrections or Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and haven't yet read this book, then can I recommend it to you. The territory is similar, but, in my opinion, the writing far superior.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2012
One of Anne Tyler's earlier and best known novels, it sets the pattern for later books, dealing as it does with a troubled family of eccentrics who find it hard to relate to outsiders and hard to escape the family however much they despise it. Cody and Ezra are brothers locked together in an unbalanced but unbreakable relationship. Cody is all action, anger and jealousy. Ezra is all passivity and vague goodwill. Their sister, Jenny, is cool and detached but prone to impulsive changes in direction, which ultimately lead her to some kind of down-to-earth happiness and freedom from the ties which bind her brothers, though she does opt for other, more congenial family ties. Pearl, their deserted mother is strong, determined, opinionated and sometimes savage with her children. The boys are both scarred by her attacks, Cody, the eldest is hurt most deeply and is most damaged by his father's desertion. Ezra's attempts at papering over the cracks in the family, exemplified by the disastrous dinners he hosts at his restaurant, are doomed, as the bitterness runs too deep. Though Cody reaches some understanding of his father and his reasons for leaving this feels rather like a token catharsis at the end of an absorbing, brilliant, but bleak novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 February 2009
As with most Anne Tyler's books, you never really know for sure where the plot is going to, but you don't really care, as you would probably be enjoying all the details, all the minute and insightful observations, and all the complexities of her characters' inner thoughts. She manages to make you empathise with them all, even the father who left.
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