Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

( 44 )

Overview

“Beautiful . . . funny, heart-hammering, wise . . . superb entertainment.”
–The New York Times

“A book that should join those few that every literate person will have to read.”
–The Boston Globe

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the ...

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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant: A Novel

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Overview

“Beautiful . . . funny, heart-hammering, wise . . . superb entertainment.”
–The New York Times

“A book that should join those few that every literate person will have to read.”
–The Boston Globe

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the older son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet, clumsy Ezra, Pearl’s favorite, who never stops yearning for the perfect family that could never be his own.

Now Pearl and her three grown children have gathered together again–with anger, hope, and a beautiful, harsh, and dazzling story to tell.

“A novelist who knows what a proper story is . . . [Tyler is] not only a good and artful writer, but a wise one as well.”
–Newsweek

“Anne Tyler is surely one of the most satisfying novelists working in America today.”
–Chicago Tribune

“In her ninth novel she has arrived at a new level of power.”
–John Updike, The New Yorker

“Marvelous, astringent, hilarious, [and] strewn with the banana peels of love.”
–Cosmopolitan

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Beautiful . . . funny, heart-hammering, wise . . . Superb entertainment.”
–The New York Times

“A book that should join those few that every literate person will have to read.”
–The Boston Globe

“A novelist who knows what a proper story is . . . [Tyler is] not only a good and artful writer, but a wise one as well.”
Newsweek

“Anne Tyler is surely one of the most satisfying novelists working in America today.”
–Chicago Tribune

“In her ninth novel she has arrived at a new level of power.”
–JOHN UPDIKE, The New Yorker

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780449911594
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/11/1996
  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 56,499
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is her 17th novel. Her 11th, Breathing Lessons, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. A member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Biography

Anne Tyler has had a very active imagination all her life. When she was a young girl, she would spend an hour or two after being put to bed every night fantasizing that she was a doctor. She imagined conversations with patients, and pictured their lives as she did so, considering both their illnesses and the intricacies of their backgrounds. She constructed little mental plays around these characters that she would whisper to herself in the dark -- much to the chagrin of her brother, with whom she shared a room. "[H]e used to call out to our parents, ‘Anne's whispering again!'" she once told Barnes & Noble.com. As much as she may have vexed her brother, she also believes that these fantasies helped her to develop into the beloved, award-winning novelist she is today.

Tyler's work is characterized by a meticulous attention to detail, a genuine love of her characters, and a quirky sense of humor. Her public persona is characterized by its own quirks, as well. She refuses to grant face-to-face interviews. She has never publicly read from any of her books. She does not do book signings or tours. All of this has lent a certain mystique to her novels, although Tyler has said that her reluctance to become a public figure status is actually the result of simple shyness, not to mention her desire for her writing to speak for itself. Fortunately, Anne Tyler's work speaks with a clear, fully-realized voice that does not require unnecessary elucidation by the writer.

Tyler published her first novel If Morning Ever Comes in 1964, and that singular voice was already in place. This astute debut that tracks the self-realization of a young man named Ben Joe Hawkins displayed Tyler's characteristic wit and gentle eccentricity right off the bat. Harper's declared the novel "a triumph," and Tyler was on her way to creating an impressive catalog of novels chronicling the every day hopes, fears, dreams, failures, and victories of small-town Americans. Having come of age, herself, in rural North Carolina, Tyler had particular insight into the lives of her characters. Each novel was a little shimmering gem, winning her a devoted following and public accolades that more than compensated for her refusal to appear in public. Her novel Earthly Possessions, the story of a housewife who is taken hostage by a young man during a bank robbery, was released the same year she won an award for "literary excellence and promise of important work to come" from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. The book also went on to become a television movie starring Susan Sarandon and Stephen Dorff in 1999.

However, the most well-known adaptation of one of Tyler's novels arrived more than a decade earlier when The Accidental Tourist was made into an Academy Award winning film starring Geena Davis and William Hurt. Consequently, The Accidental Tourist is viewed by some as Tyler's signature novel, covering many of the writer's favorite themes: the push and pull of marriage, the appearance of a romantic eccentric, personal tragedy, and the quest to escape from the drudgery of routine. The Accidental Tourist won the National Book Critics Circle Award and hit number one on The New York Times Bestseller list.

Three years later, Tyler received the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons, which further explored themes of marriage and self-examination. Despite having won the prestigious Pulitzer, Tyler still refused to allow herself to be drawn into the spotlight. Quietly, contemplatively, she chose to continue publishing a sequence of uniformly fine novels, including Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, and The Amateur Marriage.

Anne Tyler's novel Digging to America reexamines many of her chief obsessions, while also possibly drawing upon a personal triumph -- her marriage to Iranian psychiatrist and novelist Taghi Mohammad Modarressi -- and the tragedy of his death in 1997. Digging to America follows the relationship between two families, the Iranian Yazdans and the all-American Donaldsons, as they become closer and closer and affect each other deeper and deeper over a succession of years. Digging to America is arguably Tyler's deepest and most profound work to date. It also delivers more of her peculiar brand of humor, which will surely please her longtime fans, thrilled that she continues spinning tales with the trademark attention to character that has distinguished her stories ever since she was a little girl, whispering to herself in the dark. Tyler may have decided to remain in the dark and out of the public eye, but the stories she has to tell have shed more than their share of light on the lives of her readers.

Good To Know

Tyler first began writing stories at the innocent age of seven. At the time, most of her yarns involved, as she has said, "lucky, lucky girls who got to go west in covered wagons."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Duke University, 1961

Reading Group Guide

1. Beck Tull’s leaving was extremely harmful to Pearl and her children, but was it really the root of all of the family’s problems? What problems would have been the same if he had stayed? What would have been different?

2. How does the time period in which the novel takes place influence the actions of the characters? For instance, if Pearl and Beck had separated during a time when divorce was more common and seemed like a more viable option, would things have turned out differently? Do you think Pearl would have remarried? If so, how would that have affected the children?

3. In the inscription on Pearl’s engagement ring, Beck calls her a “Pearl among Women.” In what ways is this description apt? In some ways, Pearl seems rather oyster-like, with her three children acting as the precious pearl she must protect. Does she succeed in protecting them, or does she fail? How?

4. How would you characterize Ezra’s role in the Tull family history? Would the family have been able to survive without him? Does his family’s need for his peacemaking skills ultimately hold him back? Does Pearl?

5. Despite his ultra-competitive nature and his tendency to be mean to his brother, Cody can be a remarkably sympathetic character at times. What circumstances excuse, or at least explain, his behavior towards Ezra?

6. Why does Cody steal Ezra’s fiancée? How would the lives of both brothers have been different if Cody had not married Ruth? In what ways would each of them have been better off? In what ways would each have been worse off? What, for instance, do you think would have happened to the Homesick Restaurant if Ezra had married?

7. Throughout her mothering career, Jenny graduates from violence to humor in her method of parenting. In the beginning, we see glimpses of her beating Becky in the same way Pearl used to beat Jenny when she was a girl; later, we see Slevin accusing Jenny of “always laughing and having fun.” Does she decide that there’s no point in taking life so seriously anymore? How is her rather dramatic transition positive? How is it negative? If Pearl had had the opportunity to “shop around” for husbands, as Jenny did, do you think she too would have made a similar transition? Why or why not?

8. The Tulls’ attitudes toward food seem to say a great deal about their respective characters: Cody manipulates his appetite in order to get what he wants (i.e., Ruth), Jenny becomes a borderline anorexic, and Ezra’s primary way of relating to others is by feeding them. What do you think a person’s attitude toward food says about his or her character? Which member of the family do you think has the healthiest relationship with food? Why?

9. In what ways do all three of the Tull children become excellent providers? What does this common trait say about the Tulls, and about Pearl in particular?

10. Throughout the novel, Anne Tyler writes from several different characters’ points of view. Do you think she is more sympathetic to certain characters than others in exploring their perspectives, or do you think her portrayal of each is fair? How well do the characters really understand what is going on outside the confines of their own minds? Are their self-concepts consistent with how the rest of the world perceives them? Why or why not? Which character do you think is the most self-aware?

11. Why did Anne Tyler name the novel after Ezra’s restaurant?

12. One of the great tragedies of Ezra’s life is his failure to get his family to actually finish a meal at his restaurant. What is it that makes the completion of a family dinner at the Homesick Restaurant so important to Ezra?

13. Upon his reappearance, Beck offers very little in the way of explanation or justification for abandoning his family. Do you think he fully understands the impact his leaving has had on the entire family? Beck concludes that everything is fine largely because of appearances–the size of the “assemblage” of family members at Pearl’s funeral–but clearly, appearances can be deceiving. Is he right in thinking that his children have turned out alright, despite his deserting them?

14. Why does Anne Tyler set the story in Baltimore? Would the Tulls’ story have played out differently in another town or city? For instance, how would the family have fared in a small town, with a stronger sense of community? Would this have changed Pearl’s mistrust of outsiders, or merely made her guard her privacy and her home even more fiercely?

15. Whose fault was the archery accident, really? Each of the two brothers blames himself, Pearl blames Beck, and Jenny appears to have no opinion on the subject. Can blame be assigned at all? Why is it so important to Ezra that he assume the blame for the accident, that he does not get off the hook? What is the significance of the incident?

16. How would you describe the ending of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant? Was Pearl’s life a success? Was she a successful mother? How are the Tull children doing at the end of the book? Do you think they will continue to change, or have they all hit plateaus in their personal and emotional development? How do you see them five, ten, and fifteen years after the book ends?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 44 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2007

    Something You Should Know

    As soon as I started reading the book the character that stood out the most to me was Pearl, the mother of the three children. Throughout her life she went through many difficulties, including her husband leaving her, being short on money, and having to raise three kids by herself. Throughout these experiences she stays strong and is never afraid to speak her mind. Another thing that I enjoyed in this particular book was the way it was written. The way it was narrated along with how the chapters were set up was nice to hear about one characters view points to a situation, then the other characters express their own point of views on the same situation. By having the chapters set up this way I feel that it grasps the reader¿s attention by giving more descriptive details. Along with keeping those speculating on what the other characters view point will be. The experience I had with this book was it really grabbed my attention and I never had to force myself to read it, it was actually a book that I enjoyed reading.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2010

    This is a good, easy read.

    This is a book that is good to read and a quick, fun, fast read too. You will enjoy finding out what happens to the characters in this story! This is the story of Pearl as she looks back on her life. Her husband left her to raise their three children who are all very different. The children are Cody, Jenny and Ezra and is all about their grown lives. Cody is very mean. This book is a bit depressing. You will like the characters. This is an easy book to read, you won't want to put it down.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2012

    Good book but quite depressing. It is hard to imagine the life t

    Good book but quite depressing. It is hard to imagine the life the kids
    must have had. It made me reevaluate my life and try and do better by
    my kids. All in all, a good read but be prepared to examine your life
    and hope to God you raise your kids with love no matter what crap life
    throws you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2008

    If you want to read about drab, dull, stifling lives

    Ok. Times were tough - her husband left her with 3 kids. Sometimes the mom was joyful and tender, other times, she went into a fitful rage and was very mean. The kids, typical: sometimes good, sometimes not good, and they did the best they could do in the conditions in which they lived and were being raised. Then, they became adults, they made their own lives, and no matter what they did as adults, you somehow relate it to what happened to them as kids. If you want to read about depression, frustration, rigidness, and read it over and over again, then this is the book for you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2012

    Highly recommended if you like Anne Tyler

    I enjoy Anne Tyler's writings. This one shows a lot of insight (as do all her books) into the personalities of the characters and why they are the way they are. Some of it is sad, but its real life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    Excellent

    Insightful portrayal of complex family relationships

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great book!

    Anne Tyler brings her characters to life in this story. it's a blend of many emotions. She puts the "fun" in dysfunction. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Homesick Restaurant speciality of the day is Jealousy

    The feelings that exist between two brothers can be a lifetime bond of closeness and companionship. But the "heartsick" feeling of wishing for such a brotherly relationship become the earnest theme of this very engrossing book. My book club, the Gourmet Readers, chose it to read as we thought the title fit with our name. Sitting down to a cozy lunch to discuss this book, we all agreed that it was indigestable. The author has created a family that should have never been; and gave us the reasons why, when, and how miserably it did exist. The jealousy of the older brother never cools; but still the younger brother tries to fit all the odd family members together for a real family meal. Dispite the angst, all of the Gourmet Readers were compelled to read each word as Anne Tyler drew us compelety into their complex lives. Read it, you won't forget it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderfully insightful and engaging

    With its interesting structure, focusing on one member of a family in each chapter, this book uncovers motivation and responses below the surface of events. This way, Anne Tyler thoroughly involves the reader in each life as she creates its interaction with others. A sense of sad inevitability along with compassion occurs in the reader as her lucid language moves easily in this family saga.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2007

    Novel Critique!

    Anne Tyler¿s objective, when writing not only Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant but in all writing, is to make the reader feel ¿that they are living the lives [she¿s] describing¿. Tyler opens us with Pearl Tull, an 81-year-old woman as she lies on her deathbed recalling and questioning family¿s past. As we are pulled into the past we experience this dysfunctional family through the perspectives of different characters, Pearl¿s children and herself. Often the same stories are told however from altering view points this is an interesting, but effective, way of letting the reader come to understand the nature of each character. Tyler shows us both sides of 20the story, lets us experience the physical and verbal abuse through child¿s eyes, lets us feel what is being conveyed and from this writing method an insight into the nature of humans is uncovered. When reading the altering viewpoints we come to understand the characters better than they do themselves. This story has been receiving awards from it first day '1982' and is still being commended for its insight and making the reader feel the ¿lives [she¿s] describing¿. I plan on rereading and seeing others read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant for years to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2002

    Anne Tyler's Best

    I read "Dinner" eleven years ago. It was the first Anne Tyler book I'd read. Since then I have read, and re-read, all of her books. With only one exception ("A Slipping Down Life"), Tyler achieves the miraculous: Making us deeply care about people as mundane and messed up as everyone around us, including ourselves. I recently re-read "Dinner" and was powerfully moved by the complexity in the apparently simple story of family members who have decided to survive and love each other despite their failings. The first time I read the novel I was drawn to Ezra; I saw him as a sort of saint in the midst of the turbulence. This time, however, while still feeling an affection for Ezra, I saw his imperfections, something I chose not to see the first time through. This time I came away with an understanding of Cody, a character I had mislabeled in my mind as a "bad one." I always hesitate to call Tyler's families "dysfunctional," a word too often used to describe her families. Her families are not dysfunctional, they are real. While the characters may be quirky (another word used too often to describe Tyler's characters), the interactions are dead on-target. Reading her work the audience is exposed to truth about the human condition and human families. I often say that, aside from the scriptures, Tyler is the writer who has taught me the most meaningful lessons in life. I don't say that lightly or disrespectfully. And, of all her works, "Dinner" is arguably the most meaningful, the most insightful, and the most valuable of her profound body of work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2014

    A note to Pat

    *sits on the table*
    It says:

    Pat,
    I unfortunantely will not be on for a few days i am going out of town. Dont forget about me. (Like you will) ;) I will be on closer to the weekend. See you then.
    Z

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2014

    Pat

    Ill try ok

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    Interesting read. I chose this book after reading what the book

    Interesting read.
    I chose this book after reading what the book was about. It seemed very interesting and i wanted to know what would happen.  Also, it shows the perspective of what it would be like to be a mom raising three kids while going blind.  I wanted to see what she would remember the most. I would recommend it to students / people who like sad and dramatic books. At the beginning it was kind of slow and nothing was happening, but as the book went on things were piecing together and it became a lot quicker. It turned out to be a good book. It sort of met my expectations. I do wish they explained more about the dinners and the homesick restaurant. In all it was a very good book.

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  • Posted September 1, 2014

    I chose this book after reading what the book was about. It seam

    I chose this book after reading what the book was about. It seamed very interesting and i wanted to know what would happen.  Also, it shows the perspective of what it would be like to be a mom raising three kids while going blind.  I wanted to see what she would remember the most. I would recommend it to students / people who like sad and dramatic books. At the beginning it was kind of slow and nothing was happening, but as the book went on things were piecing together and it became a lot quicker. It turned out to be a good book. It sort of met my expectations. I do wish they explained more about the dinners and the homesick restaurant. In all it was a very good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2013

    E.H.M.S. Group

    The Edward Harris Middle School group walks in. Donyea and Danielle, twin sisters, walk in. Donte and Damarea walk in. Rondelle, Julian, and Levell walk in. Dameshlo and Marqel walk in. Danielle and Donyea want Shrimp Scampi with Chicken Parmisan, and 2 galsses of red w<_>ine. Donte and Damarea want Shrimp Scampi and cheese burgers, with black cherry b<_>eer. Rondell, Julian, and Levell want Chicken Parmisian with some root beer. Dameshlo and Marqel want Hot dogs with coke.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2013

    Lydia (waitress) to middle school group

    "res 8 is your table, please wait a moment while I get your drinks... umm, I don't think that minors can order wine or beer... l'm sorry."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2013

    Molly

    Thank you Lydia. I will be sure to check them out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    Sam(Samantha)

    Name: Samantha Burke
    Age: 19 1/2
    Job: Cook
    Description: A kindof short girl with dark blonde hair with the tips dyed red. She has on AEO jeggings, an apron, a dark blue AEO tee, and silver Sperries.
    Personality: Giggly, friendly, hard working, a little flirtatious, and other than that meet her.
    Other: Not much.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

    I think most people will relate to the disfunctional family dynamic sadly! I did like the book. Up front you should be prepared for this topic. If not, find something else to read. It is not cheery, but it is not a downer either and it was well written. I would read other work by this author..

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