Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant

I believe that every person alive carries with him or her the wounds inflicted by life.

For some people, those wounds are gaping, festering sores which never seem to heal. They are obvious to the bearer who either tries to hide the wounds or flagrantly displays them for all to see.

For other folks the wounds are now barely visible scars—rarely noticed by themselves or others unless the light shines on the exact spot in just the right way. Then, in that moment, it might be remembered as something which has helped to make that person who he or she is.

The Tulls, parents and children alike, are no different. Anne Tyler’s characters in Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant reminded me of my own extended family of origin in many ways. Like Pearl, my own grandmother raised her three children, two boys and a girl, as a single parent back in the day when that sort of thing still had a negative social stigma about it. I have seen the sorts of behaviors and attitudes that result when one parent abandons a family—the sorts of questions and longings that result.

Tyler writes each chapter from the perspective of a different family member. I enjoy this style of writing and the way it allows an author to develop characters. I find it allows readers a certain knowledge and intimacy with the family, their relationships, and what makes each person in the novel “tick.”

After my book club read Tyler’s novel, Digging to America, about two families whose lives become intertwined when they meet each other at the airport where their adoptive children arrive, I knew I wanted to read more of her work. Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant rose to the top of my list when the first hints of autumn floated across my senses last week. Autumn has always been my favorite season. For me, it carries with it a certain amount of homesick longing—the exact type of longing experienced most by Ezra Tull. He spends a lot of time throughout the novel preparing food and arranging for a family dinner that will likely never measure up to his expectations because he longs for the idea of a family gathering. My homesick longing is, the older I get, for that nostalgic idea of family as well—the type of family and belonging which I imagine more as a feeling than a real, physical entity could capture.

Bravo to Tyler for another outstanding and enjoyable novel which was so easy to identify with!

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