Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant begins with Pearl Cody Tull’s deathbed reflections and ends with her funeral. Like Searching for Caleb, this novel revolves around an unconventional family in which the mother is a central figure. While the source of Justine’s energy is that of her husband, whom she imitates and even exceeds, the source of Pearl’s is her misery at having been unaccountably deserted by the husband whom she dearly loved. Pearl’s excesses come not from joy in freedom but from anger because she is imprisoned in a life she did not choose.
At thirty, Pearl had been facing spinsterhood. Then she met a loud, brash salesman six years her junior who admired her ladylike behavior and had the power to persuade her that anything in the world was possible. Beck Tull and Pearl hastened into marriage. Eventually, they had three children. When the oldest was entering his teens, Beck disappeared, and it was then that Pearl became almost demented. Somehow she could never tell the children that Beck was never coming back. Trapped in her lie, overburdened by responsibility, and often financially desperate, she would suddenly be overcome by rage, striking out at the very children she had so desired.
Because of their mother’s peculiarities, the Tull children are isolated from the community; however, unlike the eccentric Pecks in Searching for Caleb, they cannot take delight in their own independence. Unfortunately, because no one ever explains to them either their father’s absence or their mother’s furies, they come to see life as dangerous and irrational, and as they grow to adulthood, in different ways they...
(The entire section is 681 words.)