30 July 2009

One Word Meme

One last post for the month - and a lame attempt at that! Lots of ideas for posts this month, but never found the time to write them. Found this meme at Emily's site.

1. Where is your cell phone? Table
2. Your hair? long-ish
3. Your mother? newlywed
4. Your father? deceased
5. Your favorite food? comfort
6. Your dream last night? forgotten
7. Your favorite drink? manhattan
8. Your dream/goal? writer
9. What room are you in? dining
10. Your hobby? reading
11. Your fear? failure
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? comfortzone
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something that you aren’t? thin
15. Muffins? Nope.
16. Wish list item? nothing
17. Where did you grow up? Midwest
18. Last thing you did? facebook
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pets? none
22. Friends? Great.
23. Your life? hectic
24. Your mood? fair
25. Missing someone? no
26. Vehicle? Passat
27. Something you’re not wearing? shoes
28. Your favorite store? books
29. Your favorite color? blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? 8pm
31. Last time you cried? Friday
32. One place that I go to over and over? NYC
33. One person who emails me regularly? SWG
34. Favorite place to eat? out

08 July 2009

Who Am I? Am I A City?

And the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked:
Who am I? Am I a city? And if I am what is my name?
And once while the time whistles blew and blew again
The men answered: Long ago we gave you a name,
Long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.
Early the red men gave a name to the river,
the place of the skunk
the river of wild onion smell,

- The Windy City, Carl Sandburg

Love Chicago? Love poetry?
Don't know Chicago? Don't know too much about poetry?

Whatever your answer, you should check out the Poetry Foundation's Chicago Poetry Tour.

This is an amazing feature produced by the Poetry Foundation with several tours of Chicago, featuring poetry from many Chicago poets. You can watch the tours online, with audio recordings of poets reading their works about or inspired by the city. Or, you can download the audio to play as you walk through the city. The site also has downloadable maps. There are 22 tours of downtown Chicago landmarks and surrounding neighborhoods. You can listen to Carl Sandburg reciting The Windy City, or Gwendolen Brooks, reciting her We Real Cool, as well as readings by other poets, writers, and critics. You can navigate to specific poems or poets, rather than navigating via the tour map.

I often think that New York is my favorite city in the world, but if I give it 'Best in World' title, I think it could be exempted from the competition for the Best in US laurels, a title which would then, undoubtedly, go to Chicago.

I'd love to see similar features of other cities, featuring snippets of poetry and prose of and about each city. Hmmm...this has me pondering what I would choose to include if this was done for my hometown. I think that's a future blog post.


Ms Musings, from her sofa, nominated me for some sort of nameless award, provided that I write of seven personality traits. She was thus tagged by ZoesMom and passed on the honors to me and others. In what I'm sure is evidence of that old 'telephone' game we played in school, where one person would whisper a statement in another's ear, and by the time it traveled to the other side of the room would have transformed into something entirely different, I'm fear I've missed some important feature of this award. I think the photo above is part of the award. It's a nice one for this blog because it features a book, and the admiration of books and a sense of humor certainly would be the ninth and tenth personality characteristics I would list (alongside not playing fair and square with rules) if the rules allowed me to expand beyond seven. Perhaps the award itself is in the doing, as writing usually is.

Now, onward with my seven traits:

1. Unlike Ms. Musings, I'm rarely punctual. I live in my own timezone. Good for me that I have the flexibility with my job to come in when I please, because I'm not sure when my 'starting time' would be if I had to punch a clock. I always think that I'll be better about this, but I never seem to put forth much effort to change it. When it really counts, like airplane flights, funerals and such, I'll be there on the spot, but don't expect me, for heavenssake, to be early. If I am, there was probably a time change that I didn't know about. Best thing about this trait: I can lose hours reading a good book!

2. Like Ms Zoe's Mom, I am a shy person. I don't know how to make small talk. I am not very comfortable in new surroundings where I don't expect to know anyone and I haven't been before. Unless -- and I realize this is so narcissistic -- Ihave some sort of role in the gathering. For instance: recently I co-hosted a fundraising event and was expected to MC the evening. I could put on my competent MC/party planner/fundraiser hat without any problem. I pulled it off, looking cool and competent. Well, not cool, as it was 95 degrees outside and the AC wasn't working properly. Had I just been an attendee, I would have been quite agitated at having to chitchat with people I didn't know. Positive aspect to this trait: I've learned to compensate for the inability to small talk. Sometimes I'll talk about a book I've read; however, this fails monstrously if you're with non-readers.

3. I detest talking on the phone. I have a few exceptions -- some friends, a few members of my family, some colleagues with whom I'd rather not sit in a meeting room -- but generally I find it very difficult to understand the gist of conversations while on a telephone. If I can't see you, I just can't seem to understand all of the nuances of our conversation. How I deal with this trait: on important phone calls I outline items to cover before I dial; on conference calls, I love the MUTE button.

4. I find it too easy to take on the moods of others. Crabby people bring out the uber-crab in me. I don't like getting on that fast train to bitchiness, but it can be so easy at times. I want to avoid grumbly people. I struggle with it all the time. If I could change anything about this side of my personality: I hope for a time when that grumpy, cranky, crabby inner me stops wanting attention, shrivels up entirely, and falls into some dark, forgotten, flat corner of the world, leaving a much better, happier, joyous person out in the world. That would be nice.

5. I sometimes feel that I have no sense of what people think about me or why they get the ideas that they do. I remember a friend who had previously been a student in one of my writing classes, telling me about how some students talked about me one day. They envisioned me having gourmet dinner parties with lots of friends, fancy china and crystal, perfect centerpieces. I don't think I owned two plates that matched at that point in my life and my idea of gourmet was buying a salad at the drive-thru and serving it in a pretty cut-glass bowl, one that I had borrowed from my mother but not yet returned. Another friend told me recently that when she first met me 20 years ago, she initially disliked me because she thought I was everything she wanted to be: competent, confident, outgoing and portrayed those traits with ease. I guess she only started liking me once she saw through my facade. A true friend, indeed, who loves me as I am, not as how I appear to be. The upside: the older I get the better I am at understanding how my words and actions might be perceived -- and the less I care about perceptions and misperceptions.

6. I am very inquisitive. I know all sorts of trivia because at some point in time I thought "I wonder why that is?". I used to make myriad trips and calls to the reference library to satisfy my curiosity. Now, I just have to google it. I've been this way since I was a child. My sister used to tease me, calling me Encyclopedia Brown. I don't know why I file away the obscure but I do. An example: my doctor could tell you all about the very specific type of foot injury I sustained in an automobile accident a few years ago, but I would tell you only that this particular injury is named after Napoleon's gynecologist. You have to admit it: it's much more fun to know that than the anatomical details of healing torn ligaments. Potential benefit: As a result of this lifelong curiosity, if I could have a garage sale of trivia facts stored in my brain, I'd make a killing.

7. I have never revealed so much about myself to acquaintances as I have since I started blogging. I think my blog persona is more easily able to be an authentic person than I can be in real life, but also a much better person. Maybe that is because blogging, with it's ability to craft/draft/edit my voice, doesn't take all that energy to put up a facade. Benefits aplenty: I don't have to worry about being on time or too shy; I don't have to talk on the telephone, make small talk, or host dinner parties with matching china and crystal; I can easily choose not to let my crankiness surface here, and I won't see you roll your eyes when I share an obscure fact that I find fascinating and you find absolutely boring. Thanks for stopping by to read my blog and letting me be me. :)

Tagging seven bookish bloggers who I am glad share their voices through blogs:

Danielle, A Work in Progress
Ted, Bookeywookey
Dorothy W, Of Books and Bicycles
Stefanie, So Many Books
Diana, Diaphanous
SFP, Pages Turned

07 July 2009

15 in 15

I started this almost a month ago, but never found the time to go back to proof and publish. But, I really did this in 15 minutes. I am resisting the urge to change some of these now that I've had time to reflect, but I am leaving them as-is.

15 Influential Books (list comprised in 15 minutes):

1 The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Although I first read this in English, I remember it because it was also the first book I ever read in French. I read several French existentialist while a student, but Saint-Exupéry's book is the one that I not only remember, but I remeber enjoying. Besides, isn't it nicer to remember a fairy tale that Sartre's "L'enfer, c'est les autres"?

2 The Witch of Blackbird Pond A Newberry Award Winner. I remember this book because I didn't want to return it to the school library. I renewed it so many times that the librarian refused to let me check it out again. A boy in my class wanted to keep a book about the WWI and the Red Barron. We checked out each other's book and traded, content to continue reading our chosen books.

3 Biography of Jane Addams - The first biography I ever read. I remember this was part of a series of biographies. The books were covered in blue cloth and had nice end papers. The series was mostly about men, but three books were about women.

4 Biography of Amelia Earhart This book was in the same series as the Jane Addams book. (The other woman was Dolly Madison.) I remember that these books were my companions during a period when it seemed like I was continually grounded. Seems like I read them in my room on rainy Saturday afternoons.

5 The Great Gatsby. F.Scott Fitzgerald. I have read this book many times. It was required reading in high school and in two college classes. Each time I have read it, I have discovered something new that is particularly wonderful, whether it is Nick's elegy about the green light at the end of Daisy's dock in the final paragraphs, or the desolate description of Jay Gatsby's mansion after he has been killed, or the languorous way that Daisy and Sigourney endure the heat and boredom seated on a sofa, or the sense of fatality in the party scene when the group rides into the city before Myrtle is killed. There isn't a bit in this book that didn't awe me the first time I read it and I am never disappointed when I re-read it.

6 The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs. I read this three years ago and it opened my eyes to not only the horrifying nature of poverty in much of the developing world, but the equally horrifying realization that even though it is solvable, the "haves" of this world are not doing nearly enough.

7 Moby-Dick. Herman Melville. I read this during a short summer session while in college. Daily, I would pull my lawn chair into the yard of the run-down house I rented, grease myself up with suntan lotion, take a few cold beers from the fridge, and read. And read. And read. If it rained, or was just too hot, I would shift my location to the dive bar where my roommate worked, where I would sit at the end of the bar, usually the only "customer" in the afternoon, and continue plowing through this tome. I was surprised that I not only finished the assigned reading, but that I loved the book. All of my classmates thought I was crazy. Maybe it was the ever-flowing beer, but I think not. Although I don't know that I'll ever re-read Moby-Dick in its entirety, I think it will always remain near the top of my Best. Books. Ever. list.

8 Fire-Starter, Stephen King. This book was given to me as a birthday present, shortly before I graduated from college. The gift-giver told me to try to not be a snob and enjoy the book. It was the first book by Stephen King that I ever read and it taught me that there is a lot of merit in reading pop culture-type books. A good lesson for a snobby, newly graduated English major - especially as she learned in the midst of a recession that the real-world of work was not nearly as nice as the world of literature.

9 A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle. This may be the book that got me to give up on reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I thought L'Engle could see inside my head and based the character of Meg on me: smart, nerdy, few friends, short-tempered. I so wanted a Mrs. Whatsit or an Aunt Beast to drop into my world and take me away to some planet where I could be nurtured by them.

10 The World According Garp, John Irving. After reading Stephen King, I thought I could try another foray into pop culture. I had heard that Irving was a good writer, but I laughed at the marketing of the book (you could buy the book in one of several different colored covers). I rushed home every evening from a routine job -- my first "real" full time job -- to sit on the patio of the dull, little apartment I rented to read about the life of Garp. I thought it was wonderful that when he first meets his wife, she tell Garp that she wants to be a reader. How could I not love a book about someone who wanted to be a writer, and someone who wanted to be a reader?

11 A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving. It was several years later when I read A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is the Irving novel that I most often recommend. By far my favorite one of his books.

12 A MidSummer Night's Dream. William Shakespeare. It is possible that I saw the play before I read the play. I know that MidSummer's Night Dream is not the first Shakespeare play that I had read. High school requirements forced me to read Julius Ceaser, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. Hamlet, Lear and Richard III were all required reading early in my college work. But it wasn't until I read MidSummer Night's Dream that I fell in love with Shakespeare. I'm a sucker for any version of this play, and I think that I've seen most of the film adaptations of it.

13 Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain. I can remember my grandfather coming to live with us when I was about 14. I was intrigued that he would read books like Alice in Wonderland and Huck Finn. (He read the encyclopedia too.) He told me I should read Huck, but I had a difficult time with the dialect. A few years later, during my Jr year in high school, Huck Finn was on the syllabus. My grandfather had just died, and I insisted on reading his copy of the book, having to cross reference the assignments from the school-issued version and mine. My English teacher was one of the coolest teacher's that I had; when she first spotted the dogeared volume I had, held together with two rubber bands, she asked about it. I explained it was my grandfather's. The next week, she had a special assignment sheet for me, adjusted for the page numbers in my book. While my reading that copy of the book was an emotional thing, Huck Finn is the book that I credit as being one of the most influential in making me a lifelong reader. And, when people have asked me if I want to write the "Great American Novel", I'm often tempted to say: "Already done. Go read Huck Finn.

14 Love Story, Erich Segal. Laugh. Snicker. Snear. Why is this book on here? It was one of the first "forbidden" books that I ever read. My mother had a copy on her nightstand and I would sneak into her bedroom to read it every day as soon as I got home from school. I would get about 3 pages read during the 10 minutes I had before my older sister would arrive home. I distinctly remember that the characters frequently called peopled sobs. I couldn't figure out what that meant. (Give me a break; I was 12). It took me most of the book before I understood that it was an abbreviation because I was reading a Readers' Digest Condensed version. I imagine that "sonofabitch" was just too racy for Readers' Digest.

15 The Once and Future King. T.H. White. I was mesmerized by this book. I never could understand why Guenevere would have fallen in love with Lancelot because Arthur was so wonderful. I had read A Sword in the Stone in 9th grade and didn't want the book to end. A few years later, when I learned that it was part of a longer novel (see note on English teach & Huck Finn), I had to get the book. It remains one of the few books over a 1000 pages that I have ever completed willingly and without being "required" reading. (Thanks to a short attention span.)

04 July 2009


I saw this most recently at Becky's blog, but it's been done by Queen Emily and Zoe's Mom as well as others.

A – An advantage you have – born into a white, middle-class, educated family in America. Birth should not be an advantage, but it is. Although women can be discriminated against and that is unjust and shouldn't happen, white, educated middle-class women shouldn't bitch about discrimination as if it were the same thing as racial or socio-economic prejudice. It isn't; get over it.

B – Blue or brown eyes – Undeniably, boring, everyday brown.

C – Chore you hate – Toss up between cleaning and grocery shopping.

D – Dad’s name – Alfred. Because I hate the one-sided patriarchal nature of this question, here is my matriarchal lineage: Helen, Anna, Elizabeth, Freda-Lena, Anna. And on the other branch: Helen, Margaret, Elizabeth. I was named after a grandmother and a grandfather, which I think is cool.

E – Essential start of your day – Coffee. Big, tall mugs of American coffee, with lots of steamed milk. I love European coffee with it's stunning aroma and immediate jolt of caffeine, but it will never replace my slow entrance into daylight accompanied by my coffee.

F – Favorite colour – Blue; the deep, vibrant blue in mid summer after the sun has set on a clear day, just past twilight, before it is really dark, kind of blue.

G – Greatest thing you’ve ever done that made you feel really good – Anything I thought to write here seemed a little self-serving. I'll keep it to myself.

H – Habit you have – lots of bad ones, but I broke the nicotine one years ago.

I – Issue you hate that the world tries to make you pursue – That there is a clear demarcation between the two major parties in America. This leads to the demonization of each by the other. It's sick, but if you're interested in politics -- and every concerned citizen should be in my opinion -- it's hard to avoid being sucked into the vortex that is partisan politics.

J – Job title – Manager, Business Systems. Yep, I manage the BS department. How appropriate, some may say.

K – Kohl's or Target – Target. I almost went to Kohl's the other day but my son advised me that it was for old people. I then changed my plans, but I don't think I found what I wanted to buy. Maybe I am approaching the age of Kohl's shoppers.

L – Living arrangements – House that is way too big to clean, but is set in lovely woods.

M – Music you like – Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young. Female vocalists with strong, clear voices who might have been 'torch singers' in earlier decades, like Carly Simon, KD Lang, Alison Kraus, Roseann Cash (although her stuff sounds too much alike). I also like opera, but I'm not an opera aficionado. I'm not likely to identify an opera from the opening measures of an aria or by the usually far-fetched plots -- that's what an aficionado would be able to do.

N - Nicknames – more varieties of my name than some characters in a Russian novel. One of them is in the title of this blog. Some idiots assume that my first name ends in an 'ee' sound because it is spelled with one 'e'. That's one of my nicknames but there are fewer than ten people in this world who are allowed to call me that. If you're reading this, you're probably not one of those individuals.

O – Overnight hospital stay – Twice. Once, when my son was born. But it was only 'overnight' in the sense that it was throughout the night. I was in the hospital less than 24 hrs. The other was following an episode where I passed out in the library and emergency personnel thought I had a concussion. And my glucose levels were something ridiculous like 15, which apparently means you should be comatose.

P – Pet Peeve – When people say 'We was..' or add an 'r' in words like 'wash', confuse effect/affect, sit/set, or pronounce pin/pen as 'peen'. Never heard of people speaking like that? You've obviously haven't spent time in Indiana. Welcome to my world; I live in the land of accents that sound slightly better than the noise emitted when dragging nails along a chalkboard.

Q – Quote that you like most – I honestly can't think of any right now. Guess I don't quote many people.

R – Right or left handed – Yes.

S – Siblings – 2 brothers, 4 sisters.

T – Time you wake up – Alarm sounds at 6:15. I'm sociable by 10.

U – Underwear – Usually. I've been told I have an obsession with finding well-fitted, comfortable bras. If you'd ever meet me, you would understand why.

V – Vegetable you dislike – Eggplant. Repugnant.

W – What makes you run late – Not enough coffee or time to gently ease into the day. And an innate disability with regards to the marking of the passage of time. I live in my own time zone, apparently.

X – X-rays you’ve had – neck, teeth, jaw, back, shoulder, chest, spine, elbow, hand, digestive track (ewwww -- nasty chalky stuff to drink), knee, ankle, foot. Jeez, what's left? Brain was done as MRI & cat scan, kidneys & gall bladder by some other sort of radiological technology. And some laparoscopy too. And then there's the other kind of GI tests that are a little more invasive than XRAYs. When I was a kid, a common curse was 'Up your nose with a rubber hose!" Who'd ever thought to turn that into a medical test? But, I'm not a hypochondriac -- smash up a couple cars and you'd get most of these. Live 5 or more decades and you'll have most of the others. Being something of a klutz explains the rest.

Y – Yummy food you make – My son loves it when I make him creamy mac & cheese with tuna fish. Spouse calls it 'cat food casserole'. Obviously, a divergence in opinion as to whether it is yummy.

Z – Zoo animal – Birds in the aviary. I always want to free them. I feel sad for most animals in a zoo. They all look bored. Wouldn't you be, too?

03 July 2009


As longtime readers of this blog may know, I live in the woods, on a beautiful piece of land I call, rather tongue-in-cheek, 'Old Oak Hill'. It isn't the grand plantation or manor home that the name suggests, but there is a grand oak tree that crowns the hill and can be seen from a half mile away, towering over the other trees in the woods. When the weather is icy, I refer to my homeplace as Mount B----- (the name of the street I live on). Mount B seems like a Cat 3 climb in a difficult Midwest winter.

I drove by Old Oak Hill on my daily commute for seven years, always admiring the trees that shrouded the house three seasons of the year, the deer that sometimes jumped out of the ravine and into the road, sometimes a opossum or fox that would scamper once the headlights of the car would beam around the bend. When the For Sale went up when we were looking for a new home, I called my realtor although I was skeptical that the place could actually be mine.

We looked at the house in September, when all the leaves were still on the trees. My son, then 10, was excited that he could identify 27 different types of native trees on the property, thanks to a recently completed tree unit in his science class. When we went back for a second visit before making a bid, I noticed two tall trees stumps, about 15 feet tall and 15 feet apart, standing totem-pole like at the edge of the drive. Neither tree had any branches; when the surrounding trees were in leaf, you wouldn't notice immediately that these were stumps. In the late fall, once the leaves of surrounding trees had fallen, they stood like sentries, guarding the woods behind them.

Over the last 11 years I've watched myriad birds perch on the sides of these stately stumps: robins, wrens, sparrows, and crows, yellow-belly sapsuckers, red-headed flickers, and pilated woodpeckers. Squirrels and chipmunks would crawl up them. For a few years, before the insides began to rot, they spent time sunning themselves on the tops on warm spring days. Snow piled on top of them during winter storms, looking like caps with earflaps hanging down the sides. I've taken a lot of pleasure looking at these trees, not only watching the wildlife, but also imagining how magnificent they must have been when they had leafy crowns.
Over the years, though, the insides have started to rot. The flickers and woodpeckers finding food in the crevices of the bark were a sure sign that lots of small inhabitants of the insect world had made their homes inside the trunks. The flat tops of the stumps caved in, leaving ragged edges. Large sections of bark fell this spring, reveling the decaying insides. It was interesting to look at the cracks and crevices in the rotting tree. The variety of textures on one tree -- smooth, cracked, powdery -- revealed nature's progress at returning the tree to the earth. But, while Mother Nature was doing her things, decomposing the tree slowly over time, it became clear that either tree could easily be toppled in a storm, presenting potential dangers to people, property, or other still thriving trees. Sometimes being a good steward of the land means you need to remove a tree. And that is what was done yesterday.

As the tree trimmers felled the more solid of the two, I heard them laugh. One reached over, picked something up and held it for me to see. "A little mouse", he laughed, as he gently set it down at the edge of the woods. "He had a nice home, there". So, I was not only destroying a perch and pantry for birds and a playground for squirrels, but a home for field mice.

When I woke today I heard the birds chirping and the squirrels squeaking. "Where's the big tree", I imagined they were saying. I walked to where the trees had been to survey the area this morning. The negative space where the trees once stood looks stark: only bark and sawdust shavings remain, and two large holes in the earth.

I'll miss seeing these trees from my house. Soon the negative space will fill in with other trees and ground cover. The woods will recapture the holes and all sorts of interesting things will grow. The birds, squirrels, chipmunks and deer will still visit the woods, foraging, nesting, resting on or under other trees as they have always done. Still, I think I'll put out some extra bird seed this afternoon for my feathered friends -- and their furry woods neighbors.

02 July 2009

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant

Anne Tyler's Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is one of those books that has been on one of those self-created "I should read" list since it was first published in 1982. I'm not sure why it took over 2 decades to finally make it's way into my hands, but once I opened the book last week, I couldn't put it down. It even provided a brief respite during the middle of a busy day, where I closed my office door and read for 15 minutes -- something that I never do.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant was a choice for my book group this month, selected from a list of book options in the local library's "book group in a bag" program. This is a program of a nearby town's library system that allows one person to select a title and checkout 8 copies and a reader's guide for 6 weeks -- a great program for book groups. They even can provide copies in large print, which two of the people in my group need. This is the kind of 'your tax dollars at work' thing that just makes me smile.

One person in my group had read the novel previously and spoke highly of it. She told me the other day that she could not wait to discuss it because she had an entirely different perspective reading it 20 years later. Two other members of my discussion group have commented that they didn't care for the book. I look forward to a lively discussion this evening, although I suspect that I might have to refrain from shouting: How could you NOT like this book?

Dinner is the story of Pearl Tull, a hard-working, determined, emotionally distant and bitter woman left to raise three children on her own. The book covers four decades in the lives of Pearl and her three children, Cody, Ezra, and Jenny. Cody is smart and handsome, but spiteful and plotting, and so envious of his brother Ezra that it consumes him. Ezra, soft, doughy, and somewhat clumsy as a boy, is a peace-maker, the kind of person who wants to make everybody happy, even at the risk of his own happiness. He offers care for others in their woundedness and is loved for it, except by his siblings, who scoff at his efforts. Jenny, though determined like her mother, struggles to not be a stiff-lipped control-freak like Pearl, and she finally settles into a chaotic family life that seems to bring her some sort of purpose and acceptance of life, if not peace, in its total disorganization.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different character, sometimes presenting the events totally from the perspective of that character. One chapter, in the middle of the book and in the middle of the chronology of the plot, is even written in the present tense, which I found a little disconcerting. When I read a book where the narrative perspective changes, I find myself wondering who the book is really about. The first several chapters of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant appear to be about Pearl. But, then the book changes, and seems to be about Ezra and Cody, stuck in a life-long struggle, like Esau and Jacob. Sometimes the book feels like it is about Ezra, but then the reader's perspective is swayed, and you feel like it is really about Cody who can never quite leave his family behind, no matter how desperately he tries to distance himself. In the end, the book isn't about any one of them, but about a family; a dysfunctional one for sure, but a family nonetheless. Reflecting the name of Ezra's restaurant, The Homesick, an underlying theme in the book is that although one may hate one's family, one is often wistful that we can gather into families where all are happy and without regret, homesick for the family we want, not the one we may have. Like Tolstoy's famous opening line of Anna Karenina, we are reminded that such idealized notions don't exist. 'All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is not a happy book. It's characters all have flaws -- like any human being. This unhappiness is why I suspect that people in my book group may not like it. But, I think it is what makes the book so good. Tyler's novel is beautifully crafted, and, despite the sadness and gloom of the lives of the Tull's, is a great book to read.