A friend from the book club recommended Anne Tyler to me, and the first time I read her — Breathing Lessons, to be exact — I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.
Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant is my second Anne Tyler and so far she has yet to disappoint me. The book starts with Pearl Tull, the mother, sick and already at the end of her life. Anne Tyler lets us into the thoughts of the dying Pearl Tull:
“You should have gotten an extra mother.”
Pearl Tull’s husband, Beck, left her one night and never came back. Since their three kids, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny, were still small, Pearl has to fend off for herself getting a job and maintaining a suitable home for the children. What happens afterwards is as realistic as it can happen with single mothers and families without a father. Each family member is given a point of view in this book, which makes the story more engaging.
I love how each of the characters were vividly portrayed and their contrasting personalities are very real-to-life. Indeed, no persons are alike, even those in a family.
Cody, the eldest child, is headstrong and rebellious, always determined to go after fame and money. Ezra, the quiet and gentle one, was left to take care of Pearl in her senior years. Jenny, the youngest and only daughter, always seems to disappoint her mother in her choice of clothes, hairstyles, and even in keeping her marriages intact.
Melancholic is the word that can best describe my feelings after I finished reading this book. Despite the funny encounters and the amusing eccentricities of the characters, Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant is actually a vivid portrayal of how families are supposed to stay together despite the differences and the struggles, despite the loss or lack of one member. It just affirms the oft said quote that there are actually no perfect families, only happy ones. And who wouldn’t want to be happy, right? This is why, despite several attempts of keeping his family together to enjoy one single meal, Ezra wasn’t dissuaded to make it happen. To actually see his family together sitting around a table and enjoy dinner.
Anne Tyler is a great writer. She has this way of making you feel, and fall, for each of her characters. Although Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant isn’t actually a page turner just like mysteries and suspense stories, the characters in the story are real and believable too much 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.