Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

by Anne Tyler

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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I picked this up in a shiny new paperback copy thinking it was a new Anne Tyler; well it was a brand new copy at the library of a new printing of a 1981 book. Which is fine by me1. We start the book with Pearl Tull who is a dying old lady in 1979. Now that’s long enough ago that there’s now plenty of historical fiction written set around then, and it’s funny how a contemporary view of 1979 from 1981 isn’t quite the same as one that’s being written about in 2024. There’s no looking back sentimentally through rose tinted glasses, no random mentions of tech that doesn’t exist yet but might do one day and definitely no anachronous words or gadgets. Just an old lady with her family of three children gathering around her and then we go back in time to see her life, starting with when she meets her husband and merging into the children’s stories as they too grow up.

It’s a pretty straightforward format, but the story is anything but. It’s a tale of people who don’t get what they want, except sometimes they do and then maybe it isn’t what they want. And in one particularly memorable part of the story someone else gets what they want and no one is really happy but what can you do except live with it. The characters felt very real to me, often not because they are the kind of people you’d want to be friends or family with, but because probably you know you already are friends and/or family with people who have things in common with these people. There are disjoint parts of people’s lives that don’t add up, except they do in real life, and so it is in this book. There’s nothing totally weird in this book but a lot of it seems strange when written as fiction.

There’s plenty more Anne Tyler I haven’t read yet and I’m looking forward to getting through it all eventually.


  1. one minor niggle, this has obviously been scanned and re-typeset at some point and several “rn”s (that’s R N) have turned into “m”s (that’s M); I do wish publishers would check for that common error.