"Love, in the world of 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant' is a destructive force."

Essay by ruskipaul June 2004

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Love has the power to heal; however the experiences of the Tull family in Anne Tyler's 'Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant' demonstrate the destruction and pain that individuals can also encounter as a result of this force.

The novel's opening chapter focuses on Pearl Tull and the scars left by her failed marriage. In an effort to disprove her relatives' suggestions that 'she would be an old maid' (pg 4), she found herself almost running down the aisle with a man 6 years her junior. At the time 'she felt reckless and dashing' (pg 5) but a few years down the track and 3 children later, Pearl was a single mother with a part-time job and a depleting self-esteem.

After Beck left her, Pearl's determination (perhaps even stubbornness) willed her on, amidst the emotional debris; however things only got harder for the Tull family. The destruction that love had left behind affected her children and their futures just as much as it had hers.

Jenny described her mother as a 'dangerous person -hot breathed and full of rage and unpredictable' (pg 71) and each of her children's accounts reveal physical and emotional abuse to some extent.

Pearl was very conscious of the way her family was viewed by others and throughout her life strived to create the appearance of a 'happy family' (pg 9). By the time of her death, she seemed to have accomplished this, with all of her children having successful careers and even managing to convince their father of the 'happy family' illusion. However memories of a disturbing childhood would remain in the minds of her children forever -and all in the name of love.

Although all three children 'felt her stinging slap' (pg 71) on more than one occasion in their childhoods, Ezra was...