Patti Abbott, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. (from the archives)
first read DINNER AT THE HOMESICK RESTAURANT when it came out more than 30 years ago and my reading of it then and now are quite different. I
found the family quirky then. I find them sad now. As we grow older, things
seem more set in stone and a dysfunctional family seems unlikely to
It is the most critically acclaimed and beloved of Tyler's books and is often compared to AS I LAY DYING.
the members of the Tull family are dysfunctional. Beck, the father,
deserts his family and for most of the book, we believe he is the
primary cause of all their troubles. We don't understand why until the
very end and share the frustrations and puzzlement of his wife, Pearl
with his actions.
Pearl is run into the ground supporting her
family and is seldom up to coping with them. Only a brave writer would
give a woman so beset by financial problems such unlikable traits. She
resorts to various verbal abuses that scar the children. Cody, the
eldest, develops such severe hangups over his father's desertion and
his mother's display of favoritism he becomes emotionally estranged
from the family. His resentment of his younger brother and the action
he takes to ameliorate his pain is painful to read. Jenny grows up
scattered and remote despite her profession. Ezra, the most sympathetic
character of the book and owner of the "Homesick Restaurant" shares
this beaten down quality.
There are few acts of heroism in this
book and, in fact, few big scenes. Its success can be pinned to the
small accretion of details and words that give the Tull family life. You
may not either like or dislike any character in this book, but you will
believe they exist. And although you may not want to eat dinner with
them, you can
picture them in Baltimore even now.
This is one of my favorite Anne Tyler novels. I haven't read one in a long time though. Maybe it's time now.