I think middle age is creeping up on me. My book club chose the Anne Tyler book, “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant” and confident that I had read it before, I put off reading it. (Or potentially re-reading it). It turns out that I totally forgot the entire book, but what I did remember is how much I love Anne Tyler’s work.
This is the story of a mother, Pearl, who is at the end of her life. As a mother of 3, she basically raised her children by herself when her husband, Buck, left her. It tells of the struggles that Pearl had to make sure she raised her children well.
The style of the book is interesting because the narrator switches by chapter. Each new chapter is either told by her or by one of her three children: Cody, the oldest and overachiever; Ezra, the kind and gentle caregiver or by Jenny, her daughter who is a determined and spirited child. The main point of the book is that siblings may share the same experiences but each perceives them completely differently.
I thought this premise was very interesting and also hit very close to home. My siblings and I often recall the same moments in our childhood and perceive them completely differently. For example, my dad loved to coach us in sports. My brother and I recall his passion and also recall these coaching experiences with a little bit of embarrasment at his zeal. However, my two sisters swear up and down he NEVER coached them. Not once. Hmmm…
I also find that concept interesting now that I am the mother of three. I am certain that when my children and grown and gone, they will talk about their time in our family and each of them will remember our experiences totally differently. While I hope it is with nothing but fondness, I am enough of a realist to know that at least one of them will remember me as a crazed control freak who made their life miserable.
There was one part of the book that really spoke to me as a mother. Pearl is talking to her oldest son, Cody, about his love interest in his brother’s girlfriend and she says: “This may come as a shock, but I understand you perfectly. With the rest of the world, I might not be so smart, but with my three children, why, not the least little thing escapes me.”
Throughout the book, the kind and gentle hearted Ezra who owns a restaurant is trying to get his family to celebrate one complete meal. Throughout the book there are many family meals that end with one member storming out in the middle of a course. In the end he somewhat achieves this goal but there is a final twist.
It is interesting to note that while Anne Tyler is very private and doesn’t give many interviews, I found her quoted as saying that she considers this to be her best work.
She also has said that when she dies and goes to heaven “I’m going to have an 11 year old daughter, a new cat and be in the middle of writing a great book.”
I am so blessed to have a soon to be 11 year old daughter and two new cats. I better get after writing that book!