dinner“There ought to be a whole separate language, she thought, for words that are truer than other words – for perfect, absolute truth.” – p 10

This is the story of the Tull family.  Pearl, a single mother, is now at the end of her life.  She is blind, tough, and unable to accept anything less than that her life is acceptable.  But now, she sifts through the memories she has in search of something that affirms her life has meaning.  We are able to read the story of how she got here through the eyes of her children and grandchildren.  Cody, her eldest, is the most like his absent father.  What matters to him is power, money, respect, and appearances.  He is a troublemaker from the start, with a tender heart, and an inability to understand either of his younger siblings.  Ezra, the middle child, is Pearl’s favorite.  Sweet and naive, he confuses his siblings with odd ideas, random obsessions, and a strange fascination with food and family meals.  Jenny, the youngest, bears the brunt of Pearl’s abusive nature through the years.  She finds satisfaction in her large family full of step children and a train of ex-husbands.

Overall, this is a poignantly sad book.  The Tull Family is not a happy one, but one full of the pain of abandonment and misinterpretation.  At times, they go out of their way to hurt one another, in some desperate attempt to make the fact that their father walked away from them right.  There are many life lessons you could glean from this story, many things you could take away from the Tull’s mistakes.

There are many critics out there who say this book deserves a place on the prestigious list of “Books to read before you die.”  It’s been accepted on the approved AP English reading list.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, although I’m fairly certain I disagree.  Possibly because there’s very little joy to balance out the pain in this novel, and I don’t appreciate that.  Maybe I’m not cultured enough.  Or maybe I don’t agree whole-heartedly with our culture’s embrace of the victim.  But whatever reason I can throw at you, I’ll tell you that while this book is good, I don’t think you should run out and buy it or check it out from the library.  It’s depressing at it’s worst, and dreary at it’s best.  It blatantly shows you the grey and wasted side of what life can become and, in this reveiwers opinion, you can find much better novels to show you that without leaving a taste of hopelessness in your mouth.

“‘Everything,’ his father said, ‘comes down to time in the end – to the passing of time, to changing.  Ever thought of that?  Anything that makes you happy or sad, isn’t it all based on minutes going by?  Isn’t happiness expecting something time is going to bring you?  Isn’t sadness wishing time back again?  Even big things – even mourning a death: aren’t you really just wishing to have the time back when that person was alive?  Or photos – ever notice old photographs?  How wistful they make you feel?  Long-ago people smiling, a child who would be an old lady now, a cat that died, a flowering plant that’s long since withered away and the pot itself broken or misplaced…Isn’t it just that time for once is stopped that makes you wistful?  If only you could turn it back again, you think.  If only you could change this or that, undo what you have done, if only you could roll the minutes the other way for once.'” – p 256

“Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” was written by Anne Tyler and published in 1982.