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on 10 November 2016
Firstly this is not a review of this brilliant book which I would highly recommend but a review of the product I received. It is not the edition which is pictured but an older edition I would imagine. It was described as very good condition but the book I received is old and dirty looking. The pages are all discoloured at the edges and the cover looks grubby and dirty. I am very disappointed as I ordered this copy for a friend. I previously ordered from a different seller and the book I received was clean and in good condition for the same price. I don't want to touch this book to be honest and I can't pass it on as it looks so grubby. I am very disappointed. It is not as shown in the picture and not as described!
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on 30 October 2013
"with your family, if with no one else, you have to keep on trying."

So reflects Pearl Tull, the pivotal character in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant (1982), Anne Tyler's ninth novel. It is also, more or less, the author's view:

"This is what's so fascinating about family life. You can't really run away that easily. So you've got to figure out how to get along."

Surely true for most of us, most of the time. But it's a curious thing to say about this novel, because Beck Tull, Pearl's husband, does run away, leaving Pearl to bring up their three kids: Jenny, Cody and Ezra. The book follows this American family, as the children grow up and make their way in the world; it reaches back to Pearl's childhood in the 1900s and closes with her death in 1979. As with all Tyler's novels, the setting is Baltimore, an east coast American city about the size of Glasgow.

Tyler has said that Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is her favourite among the twenty or so books she's written. There is perhaps less narrative momentum than in The Accidental Tourist, her tenth novel, but the characters here are wonderfully drawn: the unworldly Ezra, with his restaurant; the competitive and driven Cody, an efficiency consultant, and serious-minded Jenny, who becomes a pediatrician.

The novel is full of the off-the-wall comic observations which make reading Tyler a pleasure. This is Beck talking:

"She's got this daughter, no-good daughter, thirty-five years old if she's a day but still residing at home. Eustacia Lee. No good whatsoever. Lost two fingers in a drill press years ago and never worked since, spent her compensation money on a snow-mobile. I'm not too sure I want to live with her."

At the same time, she is thought-provoking about the character of married life. Psychologists regard closeness or intimacy in marriage as a desirable thing. Beck disagrees. Explaining to Cody why he walked out, he says this:

"Oh, it's the closeness that does you in. Never get too close to people, son - did I tell you that when you were young? When your mother and I were first married, everything was perfect. It seemed I could do no wrong. Then bit by bit I guess she saw my faults...She saw that I was away from home too much and not enough to support her, didn't get ahead in my work, put on weight, drank too much, talked wrong, ate wrong, dressed wrong, drove a car wrong."

The suggestion here is that a more distant relationship, constrained by rules of courtesy and restraint that would apply to strangers might be preferable to a close relationship in which the parties feel they have permission to criticise their spouse. It's a subversive idea; it's probably also true.
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on 2 February 2014
One word sums up this book - boring. I found it tedious. The characters in it are unreal and do not come 'alive'. The ending is best described as fizzling out more than anything else. The only people you would recommend it to are those you dislike intensely.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 March 2016
'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant' tells the story of the Tull family over several decades. Pearl Tull marries salesman Beck relatively late, in her thirties, and moves with him from North Carolina to Baltimore. The couple have three children: lively Jenny, gentle, caring Ezra and hyperactive Cody. While the children are still young, Beck takes a job in another city, telling Pearl he won't be coming back. Pearl is left as a reluctant single mother, whose only contact with Beck is occasional support cheques. She becomes volatile, prone to dramatic temper tantrums and moods, all of which affect her children. Not surprisingly, bearing in mind their different temperaments, the children take very different courses in life. Gentle, clever Ezra gives up the idea of college to help neighbour Mrs Scarlatti run her restaurant - when her son is killed in the Korean War, he takes it over, naming it 'The Homesick Restaurant' and intending it to be a sanctuary for anyone longing for home. Cody becomes an early version of a management consultant, makes a lot of money, moves around a lot and - always resentful of his brother - commits an act of devastating romantic treachery towards Ezra. He is punished when his son grows up preferring his uncle to his father. Jenny, the most independent-minded child, gets away young to university, becomes a doctor and (like Rebecca in 'Back When We Were Grown-ups') ends up - after several false starts - marrying a man who already has a large family, and becoming a casual, perpetually busy stepmother. The story alternates between a chronological exploration of the Tull family from Pearl's marriage to the present, told from different viewpoints, and a present-day narrative in which Pearl is dying, and her children realize a full-scale reunion must happen.

I've not had a good experience with the other four Anne Tyler books I've read ('Back When We Were Grown-Ups' over a decade ago, and three of her more recent books in recent weeks) so this novel was a very pleasant surprise. Yes, it's set in Baltimore, and about 'everyday' middle-class people, but the sugary sentimentality of the later fiction is nowhere present, and it has a much broader scope. We have a career woman (Jenny), an ambitious business (Ezra), a move away from Baltimore (Cody and Jenny). Tyler examines her characters' psychology with much greater acuity than in the later works, and includes more references to current affairs and the general political climate - the Korean War, for example, and Vietnam. There's even a rather witty black humour to the book, particularly in the family's attempts to have 'a nice dinner at the Homesick Restaurant', which always end up in a row and people storming out. And in Cody and Ezra, Tyler is exploring some very interesting questions about sibling rivalry. The little surprise at the end was clever, too.

True, there were elements in the book I wasn't so sure about. Tyler didn't quite seem to be able to make up her mind about Pearl, who at times seemed almost on the brink of madness (her accusations to Jenny, for example) and at other times quite a controlled, wise matriarch. Jenny was underdeveloped compared to the brothers, and strands of her story (her daughter's anorexia, for example) never got properly explored. I also wondered whether the whole Ruth-Cody-Ezra triangle would have developed as it did, bearing in mind Ruth's toughness - this seemed to be a degree of misery too far, though the writing about Cody's son Luke was strong. And the ending was a little inconclusive - there was no sense, for example, of what might happen with Ezra's restaurant in the future.

An elegant and perceptive book, however, and the first Anne Tyler I've read that makes me understand why she's so highly praised. I thought I was giving up on this author for good, but I might read more of her early fiction now.
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on 18 April 2017
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!
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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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on 14 June 2013
The books starts with the dying of a parent, and I thought "oh no..." But In persisted and was glad I persisted.

This is a story of ordinary people, but engaging anyway. I looked forward to reading it every morning. The characters are lifelike and the plot realistic.
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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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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 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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