This was the first book I've read by Anne Tyler and it won't be the last. I thought her characters were rich and well written, and her insight to human nature first class. I was drawn into their world and could not put the book down.
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.
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.
Escaping from a bad marriage is easy, but from one’s family? Marriage, family and their crises are the staple of Anne Tyler’s oeuvre of 20+ often brilliantly-composed novels, often set amidst somewhat chaotic circumstances. This is her ninth novel and her favourite, as she explains in her Introduction to this edition. A stickman’s resume: man meets woman (Pearl), sires 3 children, then disappears when they are aged 14 (Cody), 11 (Ezra) and 9 (Jenny). How come and how did it affect their and Pearl’s life since? Book reviews should not be summaries but appreciations of an author’s skills in e.g. plotting, characterisation, language use (dialogues, atmosphere; perhaps use of memories, dreams, poetry, symbols), authenticity and the feelings the book evokes. Anne Tyler scores top marks in all respects in the eight novels I read this year. She writes warm, non-judgmental books about sympathetic, bland, foolish and awful characters bonded by kinship. Her plots often go back and forth in time and move in unexpected ways, even within chapters. They often have surprise endings. Her minute attention to detail would be senseless without her other formidable skills. This book is outstanding. Ms. Tyler ’s portrayal of Pearl and Cody is mesmerising and occasionally infuriating when the paranoid and scheming sides of their characters show. She fantastically describes a range of passions and brings to life toddlers and senile elderly and anyone in between through speech or dialogue. She makes writing look easy, when in reality each novel’s authenticity is the result of painstaking research (and/or an elephantine visual memory or a highly-creative mind) and a gruelling drafting regime. Finally, is she perfect then? Her “Morgan’s Passing” left me exhausted for two days, unable to start reading another book. Here, I found all this brilliant and engrossing drama, anecdotes and flashbacks in 35-page chapters, what, old-fashioned? But speed-reading over all the detail and thick description has its risks too, being no fly on the wall, seeing, hearing and smelling all. Great novel!
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.
I picked up two Anne Tyler paperbacks at AgeUK in Stokesley, Yorkshire, as part of a three for 99p promotion. My third book was Crazy As Chocolate which I've already read and reviewed. I've read a few Anne Tyler before and found her work ranged from pretty good to fabulous and I am pleased to say that I think Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant is one of her fabulous novels!
Set in Baltimore, Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant begins with elderly Pearl remembering her life and family. Initially I felt sorry for her. She was abandoned by her husband and left with three children to raise alone while holding down a job in order to finance her family. However, as we learn more about the past, I began to see that nothing is clear cut at all. I loved how Tyler portrays a non-maternal mother. Pearl loves her children more than anything, but she is not the cope-with-anything mother figure that many novels like to portray. This is a woman struggling to succeed and making mistakes along the way. As her children, Cody, Ezra and Jenny, grow up and move away, the family fragments still further and it was interesting to see how the next generation viewed their grandmother too.
I have given this novel five stars because I was engrossed from start to finish. I didn't particularly like most of the characters, but I loved how realistically they have been created and Tyler's deep understanding of the dynamics of family relationships. A great read!