Friday, 2 May 2014

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Tolstoy famously says at the beginning of Anna Karenina

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is
 unhappy in its own way."

Which is a perfect way to start a post about the Tull family in Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant. 

The thing about Tyler is how well she describes family life.

The odd comment & how it can resonate differently with each person in the room.

How each family members prioritizes their memories to suit their own version of their story.

The set of beliefs that one person develops about family events compared to the others.

How everyone has a different memory and corresponding feeling about every single event that happens (or sometimes doesn't happen) as a family grows up together.

The way siblings rub against each other & how hard it is to break these patterns of behaviour as adults.

How the one who often manipulates and deliberately hurts the others, usually turns into a victim in their own memory.

How we set out to be different from each other, but catch ourselves sounding more alike with the passing years. 

Tyler captures all these odd moments and conversational cross purposes so deftly. She draws out the hidden meanings and lessons. She exposes the prejudicial blind eyes. And she tugs on the eternal family rubber band that keeps pulling everyone back in. 

Some of the scenes and some of the personal revelations are painful.

Recognising parts of yourself & your own family on paper is confronting. Especially when you feel you've got to a point in your life when the childhood stuff shouldn't matter any more.

But of course it does. The childhood stuff comes back with a vengeance when you become a parent yourself; it comes out every time all or part of the family gets together; it comes out in your choices of friends, partners, where you live, how many children you have and it intensifies as the death of your parents approach and beyond. 

And that's what Tyler describes so subtly and so painfully in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

      This is a must for lovers of Alice Munro, Richard Yates, Wallace Stegner, Anita Brookner and Elizabeth Strout.

4 comments:

  1. I went through a Anne Tyler binge in the late 80s/early 90s- I'm fairly certain that I read this then, but of course it was so long ago that I have no specific memories. I remember liking them all.

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  2. This one is on my reading list now! Thanks for the heads up :)

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  3. I recently read this one too and you're right, it's painful but so relatable!

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  4. Shelley and Louise - they discussed this book on the First Tuesday Bookclub last night. They all loved it (except Jen had some reservations about 'domestic dramas' not being her thing!)

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