Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Anne Tyler - Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

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When the book opens, we realize that Pearl Tull is about to die. She is attended to by her son Ezra who lives with her.  Her daughter Jenny visits her but her oldest son, Cody is absent.

From here, we go into a flashback with the stories of Pearl, Cody, Ezra and Jenny unfolding gradually through their eyes.  The children have different reactions to their difficult childhood.  

Pearl had a hard time when her husband, Beck, just upped and left them.  The money that Beck sent for them was not sufficient to survive on.  So she took up a job at a store as a cashier.  Trying to manage three boisterous children and a house on a meager salary took its toll on her.  Sometimes she whacked the children.

Cody feels unloved.  He feels his mother and everyone around him, particularly the girls he brings home, love Ezra more.  He is poisoned by this thought and finds it hard to love anyone.

Jenny turns out to be bright and beautiful.  She wants to be a doctor and works hard for it.  She has trouble with her men.  It is hard for her to stay married.

Ezra is a gentle soul who loves feeding people.  He stays at home with his mother and runs a restaurant called "Homesick Restaurant".

The family meets often, but they are not close.  Each time they meet, they bring up some past grievance and part in a huff.  Ezra tries to get them all to have a dinner at his "Homesick Restaurant". Each time he fails.  They wind up having a row and leaving the table.

Anne Tyler dissects her characters thoroughly.  We get to know about their failings and their dysfunctional nature.  In fact, it is so intrusive into the minds of the characters that it gets to be depressing.

I am not sure I liked the ending.  I don't want to give it away, hence I cannot discuss it.  It seemed too pat.  I am not sure I wanted the characters to get this kind of a closure. People are likely to die as dysfunctional as they are when they are alive.

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite writers.  I have read many of her books.  She has this unique ability to make the commonplace seem interesting.   Her characters lead a humdrum life, but Tyler makes us see something unique in them.

So far, I have loved Breathing Lessons and A slipping down life most.


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