115 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2000
First I have to admit my bias ... I have read every Anne Tyler and will read them all again. That said, this is easily my favorite. Anne Tyler's gift is in presenting the reader with the extraordinary lives of ordinary people and polishing them into sparkling clarity. This is not a book for the plot-driven reader (nor are any of Tyler's). The plot seems to almost swirl around the sometimes bewildered characters, bringing their true selves into sharp, unsympathetic focus. The soul of this novel is in joining the Tull family members on their respective journeys ... the mother, Pearl, into her fears and regrets and resolutions at death (didn't blow a plot point, that's there on the first page), and each of the children into discovering how to soothe their own wounds and somehow become a family. This book is about pain, love, feeling like a stranger in your own family, forgiveness, loss, and allowing yourself and the people around you to be imperfect. Please read it!
68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 1999
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.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2001
It is difficult to find anything to say about this book that has not already been said before, here and elsewhere, many times over. I had been saving this book for a long time and now I know what everyone was raving about. Tyler's books often have a theme of abandonment --- caused by death, disappearance, desertion, or just general malaise. No matter what the cause, the characters must go on, often propelled by the grief caused by this abandonment. The author always finds a way for her characters to get through and keep on going. In this book, the strange disappearance of the father, Beck Tull, is never mentioned by his wife and children..... it is as if he never existed. The family goes on, powered by Pearl's sometimes abusive strength and her unspoken grief at being abandoned. Pearl is so enmeshed in her own problems, so inflexible, negative, and narrow-minded that the family never really becomes a cohesive unit. Jenny says that they all grew up and "the three of us turned out fine", but did they really? I think, as Cody says, that they all were "in particles, torn apart, torn all over the place". Ezra, on the other hand, despite his seemingly low self-esteem, is the most optimistic character in the book. He is constantly trying to make the Tulls into a family, as demonstrated by his oft-failed attempts to have a completed family dinner. Even though someone always storms out before the dinner is finished, Ezra keeps on trying, over and over again.
Ezra is obsessed with food because he has a strong need to nurture, and food is his choice of how to do this. Unlike Cody and Jenny, he wants to believe that his family is normal and can have an amicable time together. Pearl is just the opposite of Ezra - her meals, if you can call them that, are tasteless, dull, and rare. She is abusive and mean, unlike Ezra, who has a sweet nature and seems determined not to be like his parents. Over and over again, Tyler has written novels about ordinary folks.....they are classless and unable to be pigeonholed. The families are "different" (just as Tyler's was) which sometimes translates into "dysfunctional". Her writing is as plain and unadorned as the people who populate her books (perhaps a throwback to her Quaker upbringing). Thanks, Anne Tyler, for many hours of wonderful reading.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2001
In her novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler shows how families endure through difficult times and the spirit that ties a family together. Tyler changes perspective and uses flashbacks to give a complete view of the Tull's family relations and their struggle to connect to each other. Tyler's characters describe one incident from the past from many perspectives to show the different views that exist concerning the same problem. For example, each character describes a family outing turned disaster as they remember it. The discrepancies illustrate each character's view of their life. Cody sees the outing as another example of his family's oddities. He also sees the outing as another time when his brother, Ezra, beat him and got away with causing a problem. Pearl remembers it as a turning point for the family. She remembers the happy days before and the hardships after. Ezra relives his guilt every time he remembers the accident he caused, but did not get punished for. Beck recalls the trip as an attempt to have fun as a family and to enjoy each other's company. He remembers the trip as another one of his well-intentioned attempts at normal family life that only led to the family's failure. The different perspectives of the same event show some of the causes of the family's difficulties. How each family member views this one occasion defines each character's philosophies of life and the principles they live by. Their different philosophies cause the friction that ignites the family problems. The family is unable to relate to each other on any level other than blood. Tyler shows the Tull's struggle to stay together with their repeated attempts at family dinners. The family comes to the title restaurant, the Homesick Restaurant, to celebrate numerous momentous occasions in one of their lives. Although they always have arguments and disagreements, the family still comes together. Through their attempts, the family shows the importance of family and the power and spirit that forever tie them together. All of the members of the family recognize their failures; however, they continue to come together physically in an attempt to come together emotionally. Tyler's portrayal of the Tull family gives every reader something to sympathize or with which to relate. Tyler allows the reader to recognize his own faults and family flaws. Tyler makes her book understandable and enjoyable by making her characters believable. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant leaves the reader with a renewed sense of family and a new appreciation for the different qualities each family member brings to the family.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2003
Anne Tyler uses multiple points of view in this, one of her best loved books, tale to flesh out all the relationships and conflicts in the Tull family. As we hear each character's story in his or her own voice, another piece of the puzzle falls into place until we are left with a more or less intact understanding of how things came to be the way they are. Like all of Tyler's books, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is peopled with eccentric oddballs who are borderline social misfits, just working at trying to get through the day and make sense of their lives - but it always seems to degenerate into dinner table conflict.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
For those readers familiar with Tyler's more recent works, such as _Amateur Marriage_, _Ladder of Years_, or _Back When We Were Grownups_, _Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant_ will undoubtedly be found jolting in its portrayal of some rather disturbing characters, even malevolent, in the context of family.
As Pearl Tull lies on her death bed, _Dinner_ recapitulates the lives of the Tull family over nearly fifty years. Pearl, the mother of Cody, Ezra, and Jenny, never recovered from the abrupt abandonment by her husband Beck after fourteen years of marriage, some thirty-five years prior. But Pearl has problems beyond a marriage gone awry. She is unusually harsh and critical, and even abusive, with her children, exhibits almost no understanding of them, is quick to take offense or misconstrue situations, and is obsessed with appearances, hers and theirs, even pretending for years that her husband had not left. Cody is absolutely malicious in his dealings with his younger brother Ezra dating from his teenage years into middle-age. Jenny, after two failed marriages, manages to get through medical school but not without first being physically abusive towards her own daughter and then becoming strangely oblivious to the needs of her family in a third marriage.
Ezra, the balancing humane element of the book, becomes a partner, with a worldly, elderly lady, in a restaurant near his childhood Baltimore row home, where he still lives with Pearl, despite his mother's abhorrence at the idea. After becoming the sole owner, Ezra remakes the restaurant in his own image, making it unpretentious and home-like, hence the Homesick Restaurant. Ezra makes several attempts to gather the family for dinners at his restaurant through the years. In an apt metaphor for the book, those meals are never completed, as squabbles, usually initiated by Pearl, break up the gatherings.
It may be argued that many families are essentially dysfunctional, but the uptightness and antagonisms of the Tull's are a step beyond. Jenny's concern for her patients and Pearl's grandmotherly kindness softens the otherwise harsh picture somewhat. But Pearl has already had her familial influence.
Has the author captured and shed light on a realistic or probable situation? As usual, she is highly consistent and not squeamish in examining her characters. Although the story is certainly grim and stark, it has a feel of legitimacy. And that is the book's appeal. Perhaps it can be said that all of Tyler's work questions many long-standing assumptions about families. Don't look for any big lessons or triumphs in the end in her books. According to Tyler, life is what it is.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2002
I am an AP (Advanced Placement) English student, and I was required to read this book as one of the summer selections previous to my senior year. I picked it up, expected it to be in the same class of drudgery as the other eight novels I'd already plowed through.
Luckily, though, I was pleasantly surprised by Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Halfway through the first chapter, I was already hooked on the misadventures of the Tull family - they reminded me of *my* family! The Tulls are so dysfunctional that everyone can identify with them. The plot was touching, and in places evoked strong emotions, as good writing always will. The book is funny, heartwarming, and hits very close to home. I'm lending my copy to everyone I know - AP student or not. :)
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
I was amazed by Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant's ability to captivate me from beginning to end. Anne Tyler never fails to create an alarmingly vivid atmosphere that connects us with every character and ropes us into their lives. I cannot describe the reality of her writng, it is magic. In this story of a dysfuntional family, Tyler slowly builds a plot by giving us a taste of each family members perspective. The story does not focus on teaching lessons or morals but is simply a book telling of a family that could very well be any family and the growing and changing of their characters. It's beauty is that you grow to care deeply for the family throughout the story. You don't read this book, you live it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 1999
When I finished this book I had a sort of let down feeling. Is that all there is? But her prose is so beautiful, I went back to read the final paragraph aloud to my friend at breakfast the next morning. I discovered her mastery at saying profound things while telling a seemingly ordinary story. How many of us carry the perceptions of our childhood, of things that happen when we are perhaps 6 or 8 years old, for the rest of our lives and allow them to mold and shape the entire remainder of our lives? Perceptions that may or may not have been true, or perhaps were true then and are no longer. This book, as have her others, moved me and taught me great lessons. Thanks, Anne.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2001
I am an avarice Anne Tyler fan, several of her books lining shelves of my library. I count on her stories to introduce me to vibrant, eccentric, loveable characters. Also, I count on coming away refreshed and enlightened. "Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant" left me with an upset stomach. The Tull family, though fitting the eccentric characteristics, are more morose and unlikeable than any Tyler family I have read prior. Only one seemed tolerable, and he was a pathetic, lonely soul. BUT...Anne Tyler did not shirk her writing duties. All her strong suits of descriptions, dialogue, character developement, flowing prose are intact. The only reason it rated a 4 was for the unsympathetic characters that haunted me well after the read. I believe good writing and Anne Tyler are synonymous, so don't skip this offering. Just be aware it is more maudlin than most.