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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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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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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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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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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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on 22 November 2014
Anne Tyler has to be one of the most gifted novelists I've come across in my many years of reading. For me her greatest strength lies in creating what I think of as 'growth books' ... where, through the author's eyes, you watch seemingly ordinary people gradually become 3-dimensional. Then, as the play of events unfold even further, you find yourself wondering how you could initially have been so blind - for the same folk now seem more like modern day heroes and heroines. Ms. Tyler uses carefully crafted, quirky plots to show you how simple events can transform all of us into much more than we ever dreamed possible.

But to me this book seems more like an experiment she unwisely indulged in. Once again she starts off with her usual 'ordinary people' - only this time she decided to let them all slide downhill while we, the readers, are obliged to follow along dismally as their lives become ever more hopeless and 'Jonah-like' with each new chapter. There simply isn't a cheerful or uplifting moment in the entire book ! To my eyes, the experiment was a complete flop ... because there's just NO FUN in it, anywhere.

In my opinion, if you really want to experience the genius of Anne Tyler, do "NOT" start here. Try "A Patchwork Planet", or "Earthly Possessions", or "Saint Maybe", or "The Accidental Tourist". There are so many, much better books of hers to choose from - most being quite the opposite of this depressing tale .
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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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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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on 2 October 2000
This book follows the lives and thoughts of three children whose travelling salesman father leaves them with a strict mother when they are quite young. It is all about family relationships and the ups-and-downs of growing up with a single parent.
The point that this book brought home to me is that everyone's relationship with their parents is unique - even if they share the same parents, their perceptions are entirely different.
It is a very difficult book to put down and is ideal holiday reading.
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on 24 December 2015
I am still reading this, but it is superb. I can see all the characters and identify each one from the author's description. What a wonderful, creative writer, absolutely awe-inspiring. Her insight into human types and behavour is so accurate. I love this book and don't want to put it down. I am totally absorbed by the real-life situations, which are both funny and sad at the same time. I can really recommend this book.
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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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