Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Published: 1982 Setting: Baltimore, USA Genre:Contemporary fiction 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Penguin 3. Table cafe [Public Domain] via Pxhere 4. Houses, Baltimore [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
    • This is the story of the Tull family living in Baltimore – Pearl, her husband Beck, and their three children Cody, Jenny and Ezra. When Beck abruptly leaves, Pearl struggles to look after the children, and it is apparent that the family is not coping. The story is told from the perspectives of Pearl and the children, revealing both traumatic and joyful events and interactions within the family, when as adults they recall their past.
    • Pearl believes now that her family has failed. Neither of her sons is happy, and her daughter can’t seem to stay married. There is no one to accept the blame for this but Pearl herself, who raised three children single-handed and did make mistakes, oh, a bushel of mistakes. Still, she sometimes has the feeling that it’s simply fate, and not a matter of blame at all. She feels that everything has been assigned, has been preordained; everyone must play his role. Certainly she never intended to foster one of those good son/ bad son arrangements, but what can you do when one son is consistently good and the other is consistently bad? What can the son do, even?
    • “You think we’re a family,’ Cody said, turning back. ‘You think we’re some jolly, situation-comedy family when we’re in particles, torn apart, torn all over the place, and our mother was a witch.”
    • “When you have children, you’re obligated to live.”
    • “He’d cook what people felt homesick for-tacos like those from vendor’s carts in California, which the Mexican was always pining after; and that wonderful vinegary North Carolina barbecue that Todd Duckett had to have brought by his mother several times a year in cardboard cups. He would call it the Homesick Restaurant.”
    • In telling this story, the author moves seamlessly between the points of view of each character, and masterfully reveals the personalities and insecurities of each one, until finally the reader knows them very well, perhaps even better than they know themselves. Very highly recommended.
    • New York Times: “… an extremely beautiful book.”
    • ABC First Tuesday Book Club: Marieke Hardy said “It’s perfect. It’s a perfect book. I can’t understand how a book can be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time. I think it’s a beautiful portrayal of a family, whilst showing every element of their ugliness, and characters that behave in very brutal, ugly, unkind ways towards each other and themselves.”

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