Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Anne Tyler


Welcome to the world of Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant! πŸ“šβœ¨ Published in 1982, this novel is a deep dive into the complexities of family life, exploring themes of forgiveness, understanding, and the unbreakable bonds that tie us together. Anne Tyler, an American novelist celebrated for her keen observations of family life and her exquisite detail in character development, brings us a story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Set against the backdrop of Baltimore, Maryland, Tyler’s narrative wanders through the lives of the Tull family, presenting a mosaic of memories, misunderstandings, and missed connections. As a piece of literary fiction, the novel stands out for its detailed character studies and the way it captures the nuances of everyday life. With a mix of humor and gravity, Tyler sketches a portrait of a family that feels both uniquely specific and universally relatable.

So, let’s pull up a chair and settle in for a meal at the Homesick Restaurant. It’s a dinner invitation you won’t want to miss, filled with moments of reflection, understanding, and perhaps a little bit of homesickness for a place we’ve all been, in one way or another. 🍽️❀️

Plot Summary

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler is a rich and layered exploration of the Tull family’s complex dynamics, painted across the canvas of their shared and individual experiences.

β€” Exposition: The novel introduces us to Pearl Tull, nearing the end of her life, reflecting on her past and the family she raised in Baltimore. Abandoned by her husband, Beck, she’s left to bring up their three children: Cody, Ezra, and Jenny, each with their own distinct personalities and paths.

β€” Rising Action: As the narrative unfolds, we delve into the lives of the Tull children, witnessing their struggles, successes, and failures. Cody, driven and competitive, often finds himself at odds with his more gentle brother, Ezra, who dreams of bringing his family together for a perfect meal at his restaurant, the Homesick Restaurant. Jenny, the youngest, navigates her own turbulent path through marriages and motherhood. The family’s interactions are marked by misunderstandings and the deep-seated resentments that often bubble beneath the surface of familial relationships.

β€” Climax: The climactic moment occurs during one of Ezra’s attempted dinners at the Homesick Restaurant, designed to reunite the family. The gathering, like many before it, ends in turmoil, highlighting the deep rifts and unspoken tensions that have long defined the Tulls’ relationships with one another.

β€” Falling Action: In the wake of the disastrous dinner, the siblings begin to confront their past and the roles they have played in the family’s dysfunction. This introspection leads to a gradual understanding and acceptance of one another, as well as their own flaws and missteps.

β€” Resolution: The novel concludes with a sense of reconciliation among the Tull family members. Though not all wounds are fully healed, there is a newfound appreciation for the bonds they share. Pearl’s death serves as a poignant reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of family, no matter how flawed or fragmented.

Through its detailed plot and deeply drawn characters, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant offers a compelling look at the challenges and joys of family life, reminding us of the importance of understanding, forgiveness, and the enduring strength of family ties.

Character Analysis

Pearl Tull β€” Pearl is the matriarch of the Tull family, characterized by her resilience and determination to raise her three children as a single mother after her husband leaves them. She is strict, often rigid, but her actions are driven by a desire to ensure her children’s survival and success. Throughout the novel, we see Pearl’s complexity: her toughness is a faΓ§ade for her vulnerability and deep sense of abandonment. As the narrative unfolds, her past decisions and their impacts on her children are explored, providing a nuanced view of her character.

Beck Tull β€” Beck is the absent father of the Tull family, who leaves early in the children’s lives. His character is seen through the eyes of his family members, reflecting the consequences of his departure. Beck’s absence is a pivotal force in the novel, shaping the family dynamics and individual paths of the Tull children.

Cody Tull β€” Cody is the oldest son, who becomes consumed by a sense of competition with his brother Ezra and resentment towards his father for leaving. His drive to succeed and control is a direct response to the instability of his childhood. Throughout the story, Cody struggles with feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, which complicate his relationships, especially with his brother and his wife, Ruth.

Ezra Tull β€” Ezra, the middle child, is the heart of the family, characterized by his warmth, kindness, and the simple dream of gathering his family for a meal at his restaurant, the Homesick Restaurant. Unlike Cody, Ezra seeks connection and reconciliation, not competition. His character represents the ideal of familial love and unity, even in the face of repeated rejections.

Jenny Tull β€” The youngest sibling, Jenny becomes a pediatrician, reflecting her nurturing side. However, her personal life is marked by instability and a series of failed relationships, mirroring the chaos of her family life. Jenny’s journey through the novel is one of self-discovery and coming to terms with her past, ultimately finding a semblance of peace and stability.

Character Analysis Summary

Pearl TullResilient, strictProtect and provide for her familyReveals vulnerability, seeks understanding
Beck TullAbsent, elusivePersonal freedom, avoidance of responsibilityRemains distant, his impact on family explored
Cody TullCompetitive, resentfulSuccess, control, outshine EzraFaces his insecurities, attempts reconciliation
Ezra TullKind, unifyingFamily unity, connectionContinues efforts for family harmony, faces rejection
Jenny TullNurturing, unstableHeal others, find personal stabilityAchieves growth, embraces family and professional life

This analysis offers insight into the rich tapestry of characters Anne Tyler crafts in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Each character’s journey is a testament to the complexity of family dynamics and the possibility of growth and understanding.

Themes and Symbols

β€” Family Dynamics β€” At the heart of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is the exploration of family life with all its complexities, challenges, and joys. The novel delves into the intricacies of sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and the quest for understanding and forgiveness among family members. Tyler presents the family as a fundamental unit that shapes individual identities and destinies, highlighting both its fragility and its enduring strength.

β€” Search for Home and Belonging β€” The theme of home and the sense of belonging permeates the novel, embodied most notably in Ezra’s Homesick Restaurant. The restaurant, with its attempts to recreate meals from various customers’ pasts, symbolizes the universal longing for a place that feels like homeβ€”a place of comfort, acceptance, and memory. This search for a sense of belonging drives the characters’ actions and reflects their inner desires and regrets.

β€” Forgiveness and Reconciliation β€” Throughout the narrative, the characters grapple with feelings of resentment, betrayal, and disappointment. The journey towards forgiveness and reconciliation is a difficult one, fraught with emotional turmoil. Yet, Tyler suggests that it is through forgiveness, both of oneself and others, that healing and a sense of peace can be achieved. The family’s intermittent gatherings at the Homesick Restaurant serve as milestones in their uneven path towards understanding and acceptance.

β€” Resilience in the Face of Adversity β€” The Tull family’s story is marked by various forms of adversity, including abandonment, personal failures, and unmet expectations. Tyler highlights the resilience of her characters as they navigate these challenges. Pearl’s determination to raise her children alone, the siblings’ varied paths to personal fulfillment, and the family’s eventual coming together underscore the human capacity to endure and adapt.

β€” The Illusion of Control β€” Cody’s obsession with control and planning, seen as a means to avoid his father’s failures, underscores the theme of the illusion of control. Tyler illustrates how life’s unpredictability and the complexity of human relationships often defy our attempts to impose order and predictability. The novel suggests that embracing life’s uncertainties can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling existence.


β€” The Homesick Restaurant β€” Represents the longing for the past and the ideal of a unified family. It is a symbol of Ezra’s hope to mend the broken ties within his family, and a metaphor for the characters’ search for a place where they truly belong.

β€” Pearl’s Glasses β€” Symbolize clarity and perception. As Pearl’s eyesight fails, her glasses become a metaphor for the increasing difficulty in understanding and connecting with her children, reflecting the broader themes of miscommunication and the complexities of familial relationships.

β€” Beck’s Departure β€” Acts as a catalyst for the novel’s exploration of family dynamics. It symbolizes the disruption and fragmentation of the family unit, setting the stage for the characters’ struggles with abandonment and their efforts to find meaning and connection in its aftermath.

These themes and symbols intertwine to create a rich narrative that examines the essence of family life, the pain and beauty of human relationships, and the journey towards understanding and acceptance.

Style and Tone

Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is marked by her distinctive writing style and tone, which play a crucial role in bringing the story and its characters to life. Here’s how:

β€” Realistic and Detailed Descriptions: Tyler excels in creating vivid, detailed descriptions of everyday life and the inner worlds of her characters. Her attention to detail helps readers visualize the settings and understand the characters’ emotions and motivations. This realism grounds the story, making the characters’ experiences relatable and immersive.

β€” Compassionate Tone: Tyler approaches her characters with a deep sense of empathy and understanding. Even when they are flawed or make poor decisions, the tone remains compassionate, inviting readers to explore the complexities of human nature without judgment. This empathetic stance encourages a nuanced view of the characters’ actions and the dynamics within the Tull family.

β€” Humor Amidst Seriousness: While the novel tackles serious themes such as abandonment, sibling rivalry, and the search for belonging, Tyler weaves humor throughout the narrative. This balance between lightness and depth adds richness to the story, making it both engaging and thought-provoking. The humor often emerges through the characters’ interactions and the absurdities of life, providing relief and a sense of realism.

β€” Shifting Perspectives: Tyler employs multiple perspectives to tell the story, giving readers insight into the thoughts and feelings of various family members. This narrative technique allows for a multifaceted exploration of the family’s history and relationships. The shifting perspectives enhance the story’s depth, as events and motivations are revealed from different angles, highlighting the complexity of perception and memory.

β€” Understated Emotional Depth: The emotional depth of the novel is conveyed in a subtle, understated manner. Tyler’s style avoids melodrama, opting instead for a gentle unveiling of the characters’ inner lives and struggles. This restraint adds to the novel’s power, engaging readers’ emotions in a quiet, but profound way.

The combination of these stylistic elements and tone contributes significantly to the mood and atmosphere of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. Tyler’s writing invites readers into the intimate world of the Tull family, offering a reflective and deeply human exploration of life’s imperfections and the possibility of grace and redemption.

Literary Devices Used in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

1. Flashback β€” Anne Tyler frequently employs flashbacks to reveal the backgrounds and motivations of the Tull family members. This device is crucial for understanding the complex dynamics between characters, their past decisions, and how these influence their present lives. Flashbacks allow readers to see the evolution of relationships and the roots of familial tensions, enriching the narrative with depth and context.

2. Foreshadowing β€” Tyler uses foreshadowing to hint at future events or revelations in the novel. This technique builds suspense and anticipation, guiding readers through the emotional landscape of the story. For instance, early mentions of Beck’s departure set the stage for exploring its profound impact on each family member’s life trajectory.

3. Symbolism β€” Various objects and scenarios in the novel carry symbolic weight, adding layers of meaning to the story. The Homesick Restaurant itself is a symbol of the longing for connection and the ideal of family unity. Pearl’s glasses represent clarity and the challenge of understanding others, while Beck’s departure symbolizes the disruption and consequent quest for stability in the Tull family.

4. Irony β€” Tyler employs both situational and dramatic irony to underscore the contradictions within the Tull family’s life. The irony of Ezra’s efforts to unite the family through meals at the Homesick Restaurant, only for these gatherings to end in discord, highlights the challenges of achieving familial harmony.

5. Characterization β€” Through detailed characterization, Tyler crafts complex, believable characters whose virtues and flaws are revealed gradually. This device allows readers to develop a deep understanding of and empathy for the characters, despite their imperfections.

6. Motif β€” Repetitive motifs, such as attempts at family dinners, underscore the theme of seeking connection and belonging. These motifs emphasize the characters’ persistent yet evolving efforts to reconcile with each other and with their own selves.

7. Dialogue β€” Tyler’s use of dialogue vividly captures the personalities of the characters and the dynamics of their relationships. Through conversations, readers gain insight into the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and the misunderstandings that often lie between them.

8. Imagery β€” The novel is rich in imagery, with descriptive language that evokes the senses and paints a vivid picture of the characters’ world. Tyler’s imagery enhances the mood and settings, drawing readers deeper into the emotional landscape of the story.

9. Point of View β€” The shifting point of view is a key device in the novel, allowing the narrative to explore the perspectives of different characters. This multiplicity of viewpoints provides a rounded understanding of the family’s story and highlights the subjective nature of experience.

10. Metaphor β€” Tyler uses metaphors to convey the emotional states and relationships of her characters. For example, the fractured family dinners at the Homesick Restaurant serve as a metaphor for the brokenness and eventual healing of the Tull family.

These literary devices create a richly textured narrative in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, enhancing the story’s depth and engaging readers in the intricate web of family life.

Literary Device Examples

In Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler masterfully employs a variety of literary devices to enhance her storytelling. Below are tables highlighting three examples and explanations for each of the top 10 literary devices used in the novel.


Pearl’s reflections on her early life with BeckThese flashbacks provide context for Pearl’s resilience and the bitterness she feels toward Beck’s abandonment, enriching her character’s backstory.
Cody’s memories of childhood competitions with EzraThese flashbacks illustrate the root of Cody’s competitiveness and his resentment towards Ezra, adding depth to their sibling rivalry.
Ezra’s recollections of family mealsThese moments underscore Ezra’s longing for family unity and his role as the peacemaker, highlighting the importance of family gatherings in his life.


Early mentions of Beck’s departureSets up the central conflict of abandonment that affects each family member’s development and relationships.
Pearl’s health concernsHints at the looming end-of-life reflections and reconciliations that will draw the family together.
Ezra’s attempts to organize family dinnersSuggests the ongoing struggle for family unity and the challenges that will arise in achieving it.


The Homesick RestaurantRepresents the characters’ longing for a sense of belonging and the nostalgia for what the family could have been.
Pearl’s glassesSymbolize the clarity and perception that Pearl lacks in understanding her children’s needs and motivations.
Beck’s suitcaseRepresents Beck’s transient presence in the family’s life and the emotional baggage left behind.


Family dinners at the Homesick Restaurant often ending in conflictIllustrates the ironic failure of Ezra’s attempts to unite the family, despite his intentions and the setting designed for reconciliation.
Cody’s success in life but failure in personal happinessHighlights the irony of achieving external success while struggling with internal dissatisfaction and familial relationships.
Jenny’s profession as a pediatrician despite her chaotic personal lifeReflects the irony of caring for children professionally while navigating personal turmoil and instability in her own family relationships.

These examples demonstrate how Anne Tyler’s use of literary devices not only enriches the narrative of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant but also deepens the reader’s understanding of the characters and their complex family dynamics.


Pearl’s strict parenting and resilienceThrough her actions and interactions, we see the depth of Pearl’s character: a woman shaped by the hardships of life, striving to protect her family in the only way she knows how.
Cody’s obsession with outdoing EzraCody’s behavior and internal monologues reveal his deep-seated insecurities and the impact of his father’s abandonment, explaining his competitive nature and troubled relationships.
Ezra’s kindness and attempts to bring the family togetherEzra’s gentle demeanor and his efforts to organize family meals at the Homesick Restaurant showcase his role as the peacemaker and his deep desire for family unity.


Repeated attempts at family dinnersThis motif emphasizes the ongoing effort and longing for family cohesion, despite the recurring failures and conflicts, reflecting the complexity of family bonds.
References to homesicknessThe recurring theme of homesickness throughout the novel highlights the characters’ yearning for a sense of belonging and the idealized notion of home and family they each seek.
Pearl’s meticulous housekeepingThis motif represents her attempt to maintain control and order in her family’s life, symbolizing her struggle to keep the family together and her personal standards in the face of adversity.


Conversations between Cody and EzraTheir dialogues reveal the underlying tension and resentment from years of sibling rivalry, offering insight into their complex relationship and individual perspectives.
Pearl’s conversations with her childrenThrough these exchanges, we see the generational gap and misunderstandings between Pearl and her children, highlighting the challenges in communication within the family.
Ezra’s interactions with customers at the Homesick RestaurantThese conversations underscore Ezra’s empathy and connection to others, reflecting his character’s warmth and his attempt to create a sense of home for everyone.


Descriptions of the Homesick Restaurant’s mealsThe vivid imagery of food and meals serves to create a warm, inviting atmosphere, symbolizing the comfort and connection that Ezra wishes to provide for his family and customers.
The deteriorating Tull family homeThe imagery of the family home, especially as Pearl ages, mirrors the fragmentation of the family and the passage of time, enhancing the themes of decay and the longing for restoration.
Scenes of BaltimoreThe detailed imagery of the city provides a backdrop to the Tull family’s life, grounding their story in a specific place and time, and adding a layer of realism to the narrative.

Point of View

The novel’s shifting perspectivesBy shifting the narrative point of view among family members, Tyler offers a comprehensive view of the family’s history and dynamics, allowing readers to understand the motivations and emotions of each character from their own perspective.


The broken dishes at the Homesick RestaurantServe as a metaphor for the Tull family itselfβ€”fractured, imperfect, but still holding value and the potential for beauty and unity, symbolizing the family’s struggles and the possibility of coming together despite their flaws.

Through these literary devices and examples, Anne Tyler weaves a complex, deeply human story in Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, inviting readers to reflect on the nature of family, memory, and the quest for understanding and connection.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant – FAQs

What is the main theme of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant?
The main theme of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is the complexity of family dynamics, including the challenges and the potential for reconciliation within a family. It explores themes of abandonment, sibling rivalry, the search for belonging, and the possibility of forgiveness and understanding among family members.

Who are the main characters in the novel?
The main characters include Pearl Tull, the matriarch of the Tull family; her three children, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny; and Beck Tull, the absent father. Each character provides a unique perspective on the family’s history and dynamics.

What role does the Homesick Restaurant play in the novel?
The Homesick Restaurant, owned by Ezra Tull, serves as a central symbol and setting in the novel. It represents Ezra’s attempt to create a sense of belonging and unity through shared meals. Despite the family’s conflicts, the restaurant becomes a place where memories are shared and the theme of homesickness for an idealized family life is explored.

How does Anne Tyler use flashbacks in the narrative?
Anne Tyler uses flashbacks to delve into the characters’ pasts, providing context for their present actions and feelings. These flashbacks reveal the roots of the family’s issues, such as Beck’s abandonment and its impact on each family member, enriching the narrative with depth and complexity.

What literary devices does Anne Tyler employ in the novel?
Tyler uses a range of literary devices, including flashback, foreshadowing, symbolism, irony, characterization, motif, dialogue, imagery, shifting points of view, and metaphor. These devices enhance the storytelling, deepen character development, and underscore the novel’s themes.

How does the novel end?
The novel concludes on a note of tentative reconciliation among the Tull family members. Although not all conflicts are resolved, there’s a sense of acceptance and understanding that suggests a hopeful path forward for the family. The final scenes emphasize the enduring bonds of family, despite the imperfections and challenges they face.

Is Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant a true story?
No, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is a work of fiction. However, Anne Tyler is known for her keen observations of family life and character dynamics, lending a sense of realism and depth to her narratives that can feel very true to life.

What makes Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant significant in Anne Tyler’s body of work?
The novel is considered one of Tyler’s most accomplished works, showcasing her talent for exploring the intricacies of family relationships and the human condition. Its themes, character development, and narrative style are emblematic of Tyler’s broader contributions to American literature, making it a pivotal work in her career.


1. What is the primary setting of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant?
A. New York City
B. Baltimore
C. San Francisco
D. Chicago
Answer: B. Baltimore

2. Who is the matriarch of the Tull family?
A. Jenny
B. Pearl
C. Ruth
D. Sibling
Answer: B. Pearl

3. Which character owns the Homesick Restaurant?
A. Cody
B. Beck
C. Ezra
D. Jenny
Answer: C. Ezra

4. What is the main reason Beck Tull leaves his family?
A. He is unhappy with his marriage.
B. He goes on a business trip and never returns.
C. The novel never explicitly states why.
D. He moves to another country.
Answer: C. The novel never explicitly states why.

5. Which character is known for their attempts to bring the family together for meals?
A. Pearl
B. Cody
C. Ezra
D. Jenny
Answer: C. Ezra

6. What theme is prominently explored in the novel?
A. Adventure and exploration
B. The complexity of family dynamics
C. Time travel
D. Technology and society
Answer: B. The complexity of family dynamics

7. Which literary device is frequently used to provide background information on the characters?
A. Satire
B. Flashback
C. Allegory
D. Hyperbole
Answer: B. Flashback

8. What symbolizes the longing for connection and family unity in the novel?
A. The city of Baltimore
B. Pearl’s glasses
C. The Homesick Restaurant
D. Beck’s suitcase
Answer: C. The Homesick Restaurant

9. How does Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant primarily end for the Tull family?
A. With a tragic event that separates them further
B. With a complete resolution of all their conflicts
C. With a tentative reconciliation and hope for the future
D. The novel ends on a cliffhanger with no resolution
Answer: C. With a tentative reconciliation and hope for the future

10. Anne Tyler is known for her exploration of which aspect of life in her novels?
A. Futuristic societies
B. Deep sea exploration
C. Family life and human relationships
D. Political thrillers
Answer: C. Family life and human relationships


Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant:

“In the light of the restaurant, with plates clattering in the background and the soft murmur of diners around them, the Tull family sat down to what was meant to be a reconciliatory meal. Ezra, ever the optimist, had prepared their favorite dishes, each a testament to a memory they shared, albeit often tinged with bittersweet undertones. Yet, as the evening wore on, the conversation stumbled, tripped over old grievances and unspoken regrets, spiraling into a familiar cacophony that left their plates as untouched as their hopes for unity.”


  1. Imagery β€” “In the light of the restaurant, with plates clattering in the background and the soft murmur of diners around them,” creates a vivid sensory experience of the setting.
  2. Symbolism β€” The “reconciliatory meal” and “favorite dishes” symbolize Ezra’s attempts at family unity and the memories that both bind and separate them.
  3. Foreshadowing β€” The mention of “bittersweet undertones” hints at the unresolved issues that will surface, disrupting the meal.
  4. Irony β€” The hopeful beginning of the meal, contrasted with its outcome, underscores the irony of the family’s attempts at reconciliation.
  5. Metaphor β€” The “familiar cacophony” metaphorically describes the family’s disputes, likening their unresolved conflicts to a dissonant noise that disrupts the peace.