Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

A conversation with Anne Tyler follows the text of her novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant in the Ballantine paperback edition. Tyler states that she is “so attached to the characters” in the novel. She comments, “I still miss them, even all these years later.” It is easy to see why.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, similar to Tyler’s The Amateur Marriage, has characters so rich that they can easily become part of the reader’s life during the reading. Tyler first introduces Pearl Tull on her deathbed. From this introductory chapter, the novel stretches back in time and tells a complex and often tragic story through different character viewpoints.

Pearl marries Beck Tull and they have three children: Cody, Jenny, and Ezra. Beck leaves Pearl when the children are young and she never sees him again. Pearl is not a benevolent mother figure, but a character that I found difficult to empathize with. She is a tough woman who finds a way to admirably support her family, but crosses the line by verbally and physically abusing her children.

Cody, Jenny, and Ezra have distinct personalities and it is easy to see how their childhood experiences continue to influence their adult lives. Neither Pearl nor her children can be characterized as happy. There are moments of contentment, but a void, or the feeling that something not quite right is lurking in the background, is always present. Only Ezra seems to find a passion in life, but even his psychological makeup is fragmented.

The depth of this novel is extraordinary. I continue to believe that Tyler is a master.


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