Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant Summary

Anne Tyler

Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant

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Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant Summary

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Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is a novel by Anne Tyler, written in 1982. Tyler’s ninth novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The novel focuses on the comings and goings of the Tull family, who live in Baltimore, Maryland. The members of the Tull family had different experiences growing up, and the novel examines how such different experiences can shape people and define their actions.

The novel begins with Pearl Tull’s deathbed. She begins to recount her life of 85 years, the narrative of which is interspersed with the perspectives of her children. Pearl has three children with her husband, Beck Tull. Beck is a traveling salesman, which means the family has to move quite often. Beck is six years Pearl’s junior when they meet, and his charm and looks make her fall in love quickly, so they marry quickly. Pearl is very strict and unwavering with her children. When Beck deserts the family abruptly, Pearl pretends that nothing is wrong. When anyone asks, Pearl says Beck is away on business, where in reality, he has left them behind permanently.

At this point, the eldest child, Cody, is fourteen; Ezra is eleven; and Jenny is nine. Pearl struggles with Beck leaving the family and is often emotionally and even physically abusive to her children. She works part-time at the local grocery store, and insists that Beck is away on business in an almost delusional way. Feeling the dynamics of the family change, Cody becomes quite angry and wild. He is obsessively jealous of his younger brother, Ezra, thinking that Pearl prefers him. This jealousy stems from an archery accident, in which Cody shot his mother because Ezra interfered with his aim. The wound in Pearl’s shoulder festers and when she has it treated, she almost dies from an anaphylactic reaction to penicillin. Cody resents Ezra from then on.

One day, Cody sees Beck standing on the front lawn. Cody goes outside, but Beck leaves, seeing that Cody is just fine without him. Although Cody still resents Ezra, he often protects his siblings from Pearl’s violent and abusive rampages. Ezra is kind-hearted and sweet; he blames himself for the archery accident, unbeknownst to Cody. He never resents his brother or searches for vindication against him. His affable nature only increases Cody’s anger, as Cody’s girlfriends often have a soft spot for Ezra.Jenny usually receives the worst treatment from Pearl, as Pearl has difficulties controlling her. Jenny is bright and scholarly, but is later affected by her mother’s behavior.

All three children become emotionally distant from Pearl. Ezra begins to spend time at a local restaurant, where the owner treats him like her own son. Through this relationship, Ezra inherits the restaurant, which he renames the Homesick Restaurant. Ezra wants to serve food that reminds people of eating at home. Soon, Ezra hires a new chef named Ruth. Ruth shares his passion for food and cooking, and is also calm and pragmatic like he is. Ezra falls for Ruth and asks her to marry him.

Unfortunately, Cody becomes wildly jealous of their relationship. Cody decides to steal Ruth away from Ezra and is successful. Ezra is devastated, and Cody and Ruth have a strange and unhappy marriage. Cody becomes like his father in some ways. He travels for work, moving from one job to the next, uprooting Ruth and their child constantly and never letting them stay in one place for too long. He does not talk to his family much, as he is resentful over his unhappy childhood and constantly jealous of Ezra.

Jenny’s attempts to be an independent adult are only somewhat successful. She goes to medical school but marries young. Her first husband is controlling, like Pearl, so they get divorced. Jenny remarries a man who leaves her with their infant daughter, which destroys her emotionally. She moves back to Baltimore to recover and becomes a pediatrician. She ultimately marries a man with six children, whose wife abandoned him. They have a somewhat happy life together, although Jenny is often preoccupied by her demanding job.

Ezra has difficulties being happy again after losing Ruth to Cody. He focuses on his restaurant, but struggles to make it a success as he has drastic ideas over how the restaurant should be maintained. He becomes Pearl’s caretaker in her old age as she loses her sight. He enjoys his time with his mother. Ezra attempts to get his siblings to join them for dinner at his restaurant, but Cody and Jenny are reticent and often leave the dinners angry.

At the end of the novel, Pearl passes away and the children gather for her funeral. Beck also makes an appearance at Pearl’s funeral. Ezra invites them all to dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and they all attend. Cody lashes out at his father, accusing him of being a bad father. Beck runs out of the restaurant and Ezra and Jenny leave to try and find him. Cody refuses to help at first, but ultimately decides to look for his father as well. He is the first to find him, and Beck attempts to explain why he left them. Soon, the other children come rushing towards them and Cody finally feels like they are a family.