"Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" is a 1982 novel by Anne Tyler, detailing the life of a family over fifty years. The book focuses on Pearl Tull, a single parent and her three children, Cody, Ezra and Jenny. Each chapter tells the story of a different member of the family, at a different time period, with the book often skipping 5 to 10 years between chapters. In both style and content, this book is literary realism, detailing the events of a middle class family using conventional descriptive prose. The most unconventional aspect of the book is the large time frame it covers, which leads to major developments being alluded to without being fully described.
The book follows Pearl Tull, who marries a salesman in the 1920s at the then-advanced age of 30, and her three children: abrasive Cody, dreamy Ezra and hard-working Jenny. Her husband abandons the family, and she then raises the three children by herself, with all of them reacting to her personality in different ways. Cody bullies his siblings but grows up to be an efficiency expert,Ezra is a dreamer who ends up running the titular restaurant, and Jenny is a workaholic who becomes a pediatrician. In perhaps the book's single biggest piece of "plot", Cody steals Ezra's fiance. The children themselves have families and relationships that are described in passing.
This book was written almost forty years ago, and describes events that happened forty to ninety years ago. This means that the book is on the cusp of no longer being contemporary literature, and is almost a period piece. The activities and attitudes in this book seem odd to me as a modern reader. Some of that is just due to technological change (finding their absent father is something that could be done relatively easily over the internet for the past 25 years) or changing social mores (the amount to which the family covers up the absent father would not be necessary today), but in the characters' overall lack of introspection. I was raised in the time of the after-school special and talk show confessional, and of the constant cult of self-improvement and self-help. So it was a bit confusing to me that none of the characters in the book (including the one who was a pediatrician) never seemed to have any insight to their condition. This may have been the point of the book, the author may have been trying to present characters who were too trapped in their past to see the larger world, but for me it was both disappointing and unrealistic that none of the characters managed an epiphany. Although a neat resolution where the characters went to therapy and realized the solution to all their emotional problems would be unrealistic, the lack of psychological development and insight of the characters is also unrealistic for a modern reader, and disappointing.