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Back When We Were Grownups: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 9, 2002
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“This novel is a treasure, a jubilant look at a woman who embarks on a modern search for herself with style, grace, and, yes, celebration.”
–The Miami Herald
“One does not so much read a Tyler novel as visit it. Her ability to conduct several conversations at once while getting the food to the table turns the act of reading into a kind of transport. . . . In a literary landscape that too often mistakes sarcasm for humor and self-reference for irony, an Anne Tyler novel, brimming with the real thing, calls for a toast.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
From the Inside Flap
"A WONDERFUL NOVEL . . . Tyler's eye and ear for familial give and take is unerring, her humanity irresistible. You'll want to turn back to the first chapter the moment you finish the last."
-"People (Page-Turner of the Week)
"STUNNING . . . 'Once upon a time, ' the story begins, 'there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.' . . . With Rebecca Davitch, Tyler has created a character who is brave enough to look back on her life and to imagine herself making different kinds of choices. Brave enough to wonder what honesty looks like, whether there is ever really a single distillation of self that is unshakable and true. . . . Anne Tyler has a talent for spinning out characters . . . who go on living long after their stories end."
"-The Baltimore Sun
"Her characters endear themselves to the reader with their candor and their wit and their simple decency. . . . The charm of an Anne Tyler novel lies in the clarity of her prose and the wisdom of her observations."
"-The Washington Post Book World
"RESEMBLES JANE AUSTEN'S "PERSUASION IN THAT IT'S A NOVEL ABOUT SECOND CHANCES . . . The tension that keeps the narrative alive is our desire for Rebecca to get the recognition and respect that we know she deserves from her family, and from herself. It's always good to have a character to root for."
"-San Jose Mercury News
"Maybe there's something glorious to be said, after all, for companionship, common cause, and sanctuary. And what there is to say, Anne Tyler has been saying for decades, with gravity and grace."
"-The New York Times Book Review
Top customer reviews
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It's such a warm, generous and welcoming book just like the main character herself - Rebecca. Stepmother/mother to four girls and step-grandmother/grandmother to their offspring, Rebecca takes us through her days as a party-giver, whether celebrating with the clients who hire space in her home, The Open Arms, or as she coaxes and cajoles her family through engagements, weddings, picnics or the 100th birthday party of Poppy, her deceased husband's Uncle, who she inherited along with the house.
Now in her early fifties, though widowed decades earlier, Rebecca wonders if maybe she lost herself and became somebody else along the way. She re-acquaints herself with Will Allenby, the man she was set to marry before she suddenly met and married Joe Davitch, founder of The Open Arms. Maybe if she'd married Will Allenby, they would have had a more academic life in 'a comfortably shabby flat in some faculty widow's house just off campus' - her 'real life' is how she starts to think of this dream, as opposed to her 'fake real life, with its tumult of of drop-in relatives and party guests and repairmen'. She finally learns how much each life means to her.
Rebecca is a wonderful character - sensitive, observant, cheerful, wistful, kind, funny - but maybe not the greatest dresser! Anne Tyler is a beautiful writer whose details of daily life and the thoughts and feelings they invoke are so accurately expressed, that the story becomes your 'real life', your escape, and very satisfying so, for just a little while.
Slowly you get to know Rebecca Davitch and her extended family. There are no perfect people here. They are real people with all their flaws, faults, senseless squabbles, doubts, hopes and over it all their love for each other. It is a story of an imperfect family and the middle-aged, overweight woman who is their loving heart. It is a story of mid-life crisis, of redicovery and of hope.
Back When We Were Grownups is a thought provoking book full of wonderful insights. I started this book full of doubts about whether I would enjoy it. I put it down sorry to see it end. That's what I love about our discussion group. I read books I would never have picked on my own, often to my delight.
If you are looking for a book full of action and adventure, full of beautiful people who always make the right choices, well save this book for a time when you desire something a bit more thoughful and thought provoking. This is a book as satisfying and filling as a homecooked meal, unpretentious, but at its core more gratifying than the most elaborate gourmet fare.
A book you will find yourself thinking back on, long after you close the cover.