book review: dinner at the homesick restaurant

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Author: Anne Tyler
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 303
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
My rating:  (4/5)

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the older son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet, clumsy Ezra, Pearl’s favorite, who never stops yearning for the perfect family that could never be his own.
Now Pearl and her three grown children have gathered together again-with anger, hope, and a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.

“When you have children, you’re obligated to live.”

Throughout the novel, Anne Tyler portrays how childhood has a direct impact on adult life, often repeating mistakes through generations, and the ways in which each member of a family affects other family members. Family, often the haven for those in need, becomes the source of suffering.

“Was this what it came to—that you could never escape? That certain things were doomed to continue generation after generation?” (209).

What Anne Tyler believes about families is nicely conveyed by the word “homesick.” At one level, “homesick” can mean “sick for home” and on another level, “homesick” can mean “sick of home.” The children in the Tull family remember “home” in a way peculiar to each, but in a way which indicates that they have all suffered from a mother who was not a nurturer and a father who was not present.

Her characters are capable of being so flawed and yet so good at the same time. This book was detailed and her writing is so utterly fantastic that it got to a point where I felt there is NO way that this book is fiction—these characters must be real. And oh, did I hate and love these characters.

Although Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant isn’t actually a page turner like mysteries and suspense stories, the characters in the story are real and believable enough to keep you going until the very last page. The book is actually more character-driven than plot-driven, and so far, Anne Tyler is one writer who is best in this kind of job.

I felt sad reading this book, which strangely is the part I liked about it. I expected throughout the entire book that something good would happen, that something would heal this family of the wounds an abusive mother and abandoning father inflicted on their small children.  I was surprised when it ended. It didn’t make sense in my mind that there could be no real resolution. This book was probably most close to reality and not some movie scene where they live happily ever after.

So, if you like a raw sort of story that doesn’t follow the typical plot where they all make up and kiss at the end, you may really love this book. Even the second time reading this novel, the writing completely grabbed me and thrusted me into an entirely different world. It’s a different sort of book. I highly recommend it!

A take away from this story is that life keeps on going, whether you want it to or not. Rather than always hoping for the ideal, it’s best to accept life and make the most of it.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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