Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Dinner at the Homesick RestaurantI don’t remember when I read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant the first time, but I do know it was the first Anne Tyler book I read. I also remember loving it and finding it to be a very funny book. A month ago if you’d asked me what the book was about, I would not have been able to tell you anything except that it was about a dysfunctional family. I didn’t remember one detail about the book.

I just finished reading it again. It wasn’t so funny this time around. The characters were quirky and there were some occasional humorous passages, but I wonder what made me think it was a funny book. I’m certain I read it before we had children. I know that after I read the book I thought that if Anne Tyler ever needed any new characters she should visit my husband’s family. This time around, I found the book to be depressing and hopeless. The characters were all so flawed, and blamed each other for their flaws that it was sometimes painful to read.

When I read the book in the 1980’s I thought that Pearl, the mother, was somewhat like my mother-in-law. When I read it this time, I saw pieces of myself in her and it made me very uncomfortable.

I talked to someone who was disappointed in the book because she thought the characters changed too much — that people don’t really change. I looked at the changes in the characters not as their real changes, but the way others looked at them. When each of the children (and grandchildren) thought about their mother, they were looking at it through their own eyes and experiences. When the siblings looked at each other they did the same — through their experiences. I think that that is the genius of the book, Anne Tyler was able to show us the multi-dimensional aspect of family relationships. Kind of like relationships with books — everyone brings their own experiences to a book and no one really sees it the same way as others.

I often worry about why I like or dislike a book when my friends or family have opposite reactions. It’s our life experiences that shape how we see a book.

June 5, 2010. Tags: , . 1980's, book group, fiction, Hoover Street Book Group, would recommend.

One Comment

  1. Bridgett replied:

    Oh yes–I haven’t read this one, but two other books I have read are so different now from then. 1. To Kill A Mockingbird. When I read it in 7th grade, it was all Scout; in high school it was all about the trial and injustice, and then we read it in my book club and suddenly there was this character named Atticus…it was like I saw him for the first time.

    The other is the Little House series. What great books. But I read aloud The Long Winter this past winter and I had to put it down and have Mike finish the chapter when Caroline forbids Charles from going to find the rumored seed wheat. I knew exactly what she was feeling and even thinking about it now makes me tear up. It’s so different to read it as a parent trying to raise and protect children and keep everything safe.

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