Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501263828
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 06/16/2015
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

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.


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

October 25, 1941

Place of Birth:

Minneapolis, Minnesota


B.A., Duke University, 1961

Read an Excerpt


Excerpted from "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant"
by .
Copyright © 1996 Anne Tyler.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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?

Customer Reviews

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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
RyCarMad More than 1 year ago
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.
jodiNC More than 1 year ago
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.
tchrreader More than 1 year ago
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.
Linski More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Insightful portrayal of complex family relationships
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Nottingham More than 1 year ago
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.
jonesli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great story of a far from perfect family. When the book begins, Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life and reflecting on her life after raising her three children as a single parent when her husband left her in 1944. He decided that due to Pearl's constant nagging and emotional outbursts that he didn't want to be a husband and father any more. Awful, yes, but Pearl is a piece of work prone to outbursts and constant criticism of her children: the too slick for his own good Cody, the high spirited and nervous Jenny, and the sweet loveable Ezra, were all subject to Pearl's harsh criticism and lack of encouragement. You know a book is good when you can feel sympathy for characters who probably don't deserve it: I felt sorry for Pearl, who wasn't sure how to mother her children, I felt sorry for Cody who always tortured and mistreated his brother Ezra because he felt as though his mother favored him. This book really drives the point home that no marriage or parent child relationship is perfect. and that sibling rivalry and remarks made in the heat of a moment can profoundly damage a relationship forever. I found it very thought provoking.
bardin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not alot happens in this book, but some sections of the book does feature some of the best writing I've ever read. It's just the other parts don't quite make it a classic, but this is still a very worthy book.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the bittersweet retelling of the history of a family, a family with its own peculiar insecurities and rivalries, which is nonetheless bound together by love, even if the family members realize that too late. A quiet, slow-moving book, it is also an engrossing read with real, engaging, multi-faceted characters.
kingsportlibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a woman whose husband leaves her with three children to raise. Pearl Tull was difficult and wore her family out with her demands and her big personality. She had no friends of her own, living life through her children and doing repairs on her Baltimore rowhouse. When Pearl went out to her job as a cashier at a grocery store, she wore her hat with the netting. She kept herself apart from "outsiders." Her son Ezra ran a small restaurant called "The Homesick Restaurant." When he had family dinners, they always broke up early in arguments and unpleasantness. Finally after Pearl died, it looked like they would get to finish a dinner.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is no doubt Tyler wanted Dinner to be a character novel. The plot moves slow enough so that more emphasis is placed on the people within the constraints of the narrow storyline. The characters swell and grow beyond the plot, making them the focal point. For example, Cody does enough rotten things that it should be impossible for the reader to like him and maybe even go so far as to hate him and yet, one finds ways to feel sorry for him because he is not his mother's favorite child. He's not even her second favorite. I find it interesting that no matter how rotten Tyler made Cody out to be I couldn't help but pity him. His "lashing out" made me want to protect him and love him. He even had his quiet moments of kindness, "Cody took a pinch of Jenny's coat sleeve so as not to lose her" (p 61). In fact, all of the characters are this way. Pearl Tull is an abusive, angry mother but you have to pity her because her husband walked out on her for apparently no reason. She is left to raise three small children completely on her own. Cody, the oldest, is only eight when his father leaves. Jenny is the middle child and Ezra is the youngest. All three children grow to be self-absorbed adults with difficult-to-love personalities. And yet, yet you want them to be okay.
_________jt_________ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Almost ruined by the author's admitted love for one character.
curlycurrie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this a bit slow to start with but persevered beause I had read so many good reviews about it. I'm glad I did because as I got further into the book things started to come together and the jigsaw fell into place. Very thought provoking and although nothing in particular happens Anne Tyker domonstrates how the events and actions of parents have an effect on their children and subsequently their grandchildren.This was the first Anne Tyler book I've read and now I'm looking out for more.
whirled on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant is a funny, sad and entertaining reflection on the conflicting emotions at the heart of family life. As reluctant single mother Pearl Tull lies on her deathbed, she and her three children ruminate on their shared past, imparting wildly different versions of events. Tyler lends a depth to her characters and their thinking that makes them solid and authentic, despite their various flaws. In Tyler's fictional world, characters don't have to be lovable to be interesting. The book is a timeless study of the nature of family, love and regret.
heathernkemp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rating: A+If you have not ever read this book, stop reading this review right now, go pick it up, and don't do anything else until you're done. If you're still reading this then you're either disobedient or you know how truly fabulous this novel is. Anne Tyler is an absolutely genius writer. She takes a series of events that are seemingly nothing--seriously, nothing of "consequence" really happens in this book--but you're captivated from the first chapter.As I was reading I found myself feeling sympathy for which ever perspective was being used--she writes from Pearl, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny at different points throughout the book. When you're reading Cody you feel so badly for Cody, and (paradoxically) when you read Ezra your heart breaks for him. And it seems hard to imagine, having read any of the children's chapters, but you actually feel that Pearl (and her husband) as well are characters were rich and deep back-stories that are so complex.At the end of the book I found myself deeply saddened, to the point of near tears (if I hadn't been at dinner with my family in Fazoli's I'd probably have let the tears spill). I just felt that these characters were all so tragic, their lives so sad, and then I realized what Tyler's teaching--everyone is tragic. No one has the perfect life. Family is very nearly all anybody has, and it makes you re-think what you think of your family and closest friends.This book was easily, so easily, an A+ in my book. If I weren't a stickler for the grading system, I'd have given it an A++. It's really that good.
jeffome on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book....a little slow in the beginning, but it rallied....Tyler certainly has a knack for creating very odd, but for some reason, somewhat believable characters that suck you in....the characters are somewhat tragic, but that old 'humanity thing' kicks in and it is totally appropriate to relate, no matter how removed we may be in our lives.....although, we're probably not as removed as we may think!!!! My 4th Tyler, and i have more on the shelf.....but i likely will not read them back to back....there is a basic pattern of sorts that i can now see, and some space between will make them more enjoyable, i hope.
caitlinef on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is a story of family and its imperfections. Throughout their lives, the Tulls have struggled and fought with one another, as each family member has a dynamic personality that conflicts with another. It seems that everytime one person tries to get along, another is offended. Ezra centers his life around getting his family to sit through an entire meal together, however, as simple as this may seem, it is almost impossible for the Tulls. This book is very sad, and will make you glad for the family you have, or else will make you remember all of the faults in your own family.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler weaves together a cast of characters which capture the reader in her wonderful novel: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Pearl Tull, a domineering and stubborn woman who is adept at denial (especially when her husband abandons the family) heads up the Tull family. Tyler begins at Pearl's deathbed, then rewinds to reveal the intricate relationships and events that span her life.Cody Tull is the eldest of Pearl's children - the son who remembers his father the most vividly and is perhaps the most damaged by Beck Tull's desertion. Jenny, the only daughter, worries about her weight and can't sustain a relationship with men. And then there is Ezra - the favorite son - gentle, lumbering and looking for family unity - the type of man who cares for others and can't quite give up on his mother. Even Tyler's minor characters will touch the reader's heart - especially Ezra's friend Josiah Payton:'Mrs. Payton kept refilling his plate. "To look at him," she said, "you'd never know he eats so much, would you? Skinny as a fence post. I reckon he's still a growing boy." She laughed, and Josiah grinned bashfully with his eyes cast down - a skeletal, stooped , hunkering man. Jenny had never thought about the fact that Josiah was somebody's son, some woman's greatest treasure. His stubby black lashes were lowered; his prickly head was bent over his plate. He was so certain of being loved, her if no place else.' -From Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, page 108-Tyler's novel is a character study - and there is no author out there who does character driven novels as well as Tyler. Beautiful, harsh, endearing, absorbing - all describe this wonderful story of the Tull family. As Pearl Tull's life spirals down, Tyler infuses the characters with hope and gives the reader a deeply satisfying story to remember long after the last page is turned.Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well developed characters! Rich details, very relatable. Each character had strengths and flaws that made you connect with their story. Will read others by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible character development, boring storylines, no empathy for characters, mundane language. Honestly cant figure out how this book generated so much praise and received great reviews, so disappointed! I read a lot of good books and this was definitely NOT one of them. Also now really turned off by the author and wont try anything else by her.