Anne Tyler has written a beautifully lighthanded, poignantly observed novel of family life that rings so true it hurts. The story of the Tulls is for the most part unexceptional. But it is from this ordinariness that the novel derives its strength. Real life is for most people about coping. All the Tulls are dysfunctional in their own ways. Beck, the father, deserts his family and it is tempting to believe he is the cause of all their troubles. By the end of the story, you're not so sure. Pearl, the mother, is run ragged bringing up the children on her own but she is no saint. She resorts to abuse which scars the children (albeit to different degrees). Cody, the eldest, develops such severe hangups over his father's desertion and his mother's display of favouritism he becomes emotionally estranged from the family. His resentment of his younger brother borders on cruelty and is painful to read. Sister Jenny, also a victim of abuse by her mother, grows up scatty and remote. Ezra, the gentlest of the three children and owner of the "Homesick Restaurant" is the most sympathetically drawn character but even then, there is a feeling of defeat and being thwarted about his whole life. There are no saints, heroes or villains in the novel,only ordinary men and women who are different shades of grey. There are two scenes in the novel which are specially poignant. One is where Pearl in her old age relives one captured moment of happiness from an old diary. Another is where Beck returns momentarily for a family reunion at Ezra's "Homesick Restaurant" on the occasion of Pearl's funeral. The reunion is, like all of Ezra's earlier attempts, a failure. But Tyler seems to be saying perhaps it doesn't matter after all . Not ultimately, since failure is an integral part of family life. Like Pearl's memory of her youthful past, it's living that makes us human. Reading this novel won't change your life. But it will add to it.