Well, there's a kick in the guts. If art is to entertain and at the same time inform, then this is it. Anne Tyler makes me weep. She sets the characters up for a fall. There's the whimsical, lovely mother abandoned for no reason, making the best of a bad job. Then we switch to each of the kids, and their nice in their own way. Until you see them through each other's eyes. That's when we see what they're really like. The mother is a violent bitch. Cody's a viscous bastard, Ezra's weak and Jenny is misguided. All because of the mother, who is all because of the father. Through a series of vignettes we see it all, how the kids interact. How the way they learn to behave as kids determines the mistakes they make as adults. How Cody turns out much the same way as his father was supposed to be.
But the theme recurring throughout it all is the family walk out. It's a cop out, showing contempt for those around you. A defence mechanism, you don't have to explain yourself. You are in the right. And you don't have to be there to face the consequences in the battle between parents and children and child and child, you win. Or do you?
The big walk out, of course , is Beck's . He's the deserting father, abrupt conceited, arrogant, unable to communicate. As Pearl has it, he just walks out.. Then there are the beautiful walk outs from the aptly named Homesick Restaurant, where poor old Ezra tries to create the family atmosphere of which he was deprived. The family influence is bad but the villain of the piece is Beck until the end. Then nasty Cody comes into his own. Now with malice a forethought he tells the tail of Sloan on page 307 who fathered the child and never knew... Then the baby chokes on a button mushroom and in the drama that follows Beck walks out to be followed by Cody who mistakes him for his own son. The scene is piquant, unnervingly accurate. The novel is so beautiful, it made me want to cry. Not just because it was beautiful but because it was so accurate that it hurt. Tyler does not lecture, she doesn't try to be funny, she just lets the characters go through the their paces. It is because she can write so well that I weep. Just as we can none of us be perfect mothers, fathers, husbands, wives brothers or sisters, I could never write as well as that. Ands thats the reason she made me weep. 10/10