#7 – Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

20 01 2008

I have been a long time Anne Tyler fan. I picked Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant up at Borders prior to leaving for Florida, not realizing that I had read it before a long time ago. I don’t normally read books more than once. Enough time had passed that I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, but when things did happen, they just seemed “right”.

This book tells the tale of the Tull family and how each member’s life is shaped after Beck, the husband/father leaves. Pearl leads a spartan and pinched existence, raising her three children on her own. Jealousy and misunderstanding causes Cody to do something that changes the life of himself and his brother Ezra forever. Jenny is a doctor and a serial divorcee. When Pearl dies, Ezra calls Beck and invites him to the funeral. He returns after many decades and spends the day with the family, as if he never left.

Cody is an efficiency expert. Several times he waxes poetically about the value of time, something that hits close to home with me. I often say that time is what life is made up of and essentially is all that we have. Timeliness is next to godliness.

“Time is my obsession: not to waste it, not to lose it. It’s like . . . I don’t know, an object, to me; something you can almost take hold of. If I could just collect enough of it in one clump, I always think. If I could pass it back and forth and sideways, you know? If only Einstein were right and time were a kind of river you could choose to step into at any place along the shore.”

“Everything,” his father said, “comes down to time in the end – to the passing of time, to changing. Ever thought of that? Anything that makes you happy or sad, isn’t it all based on minutes going by? Isn’t happiness expecting something time is going to bring you? Isn’t sadness wishing time back again? Even big things – even mourning a death, aren’t you really just wishing to have the time back when that person was alive? Or photos – ever notice old photographs? How wistful they make you feel? Long-ago people smiling, a child who would be an old lady now, a cat that died, a flowering plant that’s long since withered away and the pot itself broken or misplaced . . . Isn’t it just that time for once is stopped that makes you wistful? If only you could turn it back again, you think. If only you could change this or that, undo what you have done, if only you could roll the minutes the other way for once.”

Some other great Anne Tyler books are Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, Back When We Were Grownups, The Amateur Marriage, and Digging To America. If you haven’t read anything by Tyler, you won’t regret picking up one of her books.

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