Critics generally consider Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler's ninth novel, to be among her best work. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award and the 1983 Pulitzer Prize. Also a commercial success, it has to date sold more than 60,000 copies in hardcover and more than 655,000 in paperback. Published in 1982, the medium-length fiction spans several decades in the history of the Tull family of Baltimore, Maryland. Often compared to William Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying, the narrative begins with 85-year-old Pearl Tull, blind and on her deathbed, attempting to reconcile with her role as a deserted wife and single parent. Will her three grown children—Cody, Jenny, and Ezra—forgive her for sometimes being a physically and verbally abusive mother? Told from alternating points of view, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is ultimately about how growing up in an unconventional, turbulent family affected three children in very different ways.
Although many critics considered the novel less optimistic than her other work, it drew much praise for its psychological insight, rich characterization, well-developed plot structure, and impressive handling of multiple points of view. Like many of her other novels—including Earthly Possessions, Searching for Caleb, and The Accidental Tourist—Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is about the burden of a person's past, be it personal, familial, or historical.