Critical Overview

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 636

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, originally published in the United States by Knopf in 1982, qualified as a critical and commercial success for its somewhat reclusive author, Anne Tyler. In one of her few interviews, Tyler said as quoted in Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, "I think what I was doing was saying 'Well, all right, I've joked around about families long enough; let me tell you now what I really believe about them.'"

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Although her opinion produced a book less optimistic than some of her previous novels, critics (many of whom had ignored Tyler's previous novels) responded positively for the most part. Although Elizabeth Evans in her book Anne Tyler and some other critics thought that using Pearl's deathbed was not a particularly original structural device, the consensus was that Tyler's perception of an unconventional, emotionally scarred family rang fascinating, poignant, and true.

Many commended Tyler's control over multiple points of view, as well as her rich characterizations, and a complex plot structure. In a Yale Review interview with Barbara Lazear Ascher, the writer Eudora Welty lavished more general praise on Tyler: "She is the best.... I told her once if I could have written the last sentence of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, I'd have been happy for the rest of my life." John Updike in his New Yorker review of the author's ninth novel, was no less complimentary: "She has arrived, I think, at a new level of power, and gives us a lucid and delightful yet complex and sombre improvisation on her favorite theme, family life." Kathleen Woodward in her chapter "Forgetting and Remembering" from the book Anne Tyler as Novelist wrote, "With Pearl Tull, Tyler gives us an indelible compelling portrait of a woman in her last years."

Benjamin DeMott, in The New York Times Book Review, praised Tyler because she "edges deeper into a truth that's simultaneously (and interdependently) psychological, moral and formal—deeper than many living novelists of serious reputations have penetrated, deeper than Miss Tyler has gone before." He also observed that "there's a touch of Dostoyevsky's 'Idiot' in Ezra, a hint of the unposturing selflessness." Donna Gerstenberger, in the "Everybody Speaks" chapter from Anne Tyler as Novelist, wrote, "The meaning, the triumph of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant resides, I think, in the family members' ability to learn to reread the text of self of family relationships that have been previously constructed under immense pressure."

Other critics pointed out...

(The entire section contains 636 words.)

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