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Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
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Back When We Were Grownups (2001)

by Anne Tyler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,755482,130 (3.44)86
  1. 00
    Random Harvest by James Hilton (BonnieJune54)
    BonnieJune54: Both main characters explore what their lives would have been if they had taken a different fork in the road.
  2. 00
    Solomon's Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson (terran)
    terran: Both involve hosting parties, catering, and family relationships.
  3. 00
    Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler (glajohnson)
    glajohnson: I really liked the main character in this book. I love that she was an overweight, middle-aged woman who was still trying to decide who she was. I think it was interesting for her to explore the "what if" of her college fiance and the life she might have had with him. I liked the way her thought processes changed throughout the book until she realizes that the way she was in college was not the true self that she thought it was.… (more)
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» See also 86 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
There is the myth of a life of continuous improvement. We all know each person should be independent and strong and that everyone should have the right to fulfill their own personal desires. But those of us who have lived for a while realize how nearly impossible this is and how seldom it actually happens. Portraying that life in all its mundane glory is what this author does best.

"On the screen, Rebecca's face appeared, merry and open and sunlit, and she saw that she really had been having a wonderful time."

"Poppy said. “Because I was always telling him, ‘Look,’ I said. ‘Face it,’ I said. ‘There is no true life. Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got,’ I said.”" ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
There is the myth of a life of continuous improvement. We all know each person should be independent and strong and that everyone should have the right to fulfill their own personal desires. But those of us who have lived for a while realize how nearly impossible this is and how seldom it actually happens. Portraying that life in all its mundane glory is what this author does best.

"On the screen, Rebecca's face appeared, merry and open and sunlit, and she saw that she really had been having a wonderful time."

"Poppy said. “Because I was always telling him, ‘Look,’ I said. ‘Face it,’ I said. ‘There is no true life. Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be. You just do the best you can with what you’ve got,’ I said.”" ( )
  FAR2MANYBOOKS | Apr 5, 2014 |
This author can make the ordinary interesting. And so often you have the recognition factor as when "it was very tiring to speak in her grandma voice" or, when Tina comes to stay and clucks critically at the discarded eggshells in the eggbox "This was what happened when people came to stay:they forced you to view your life from outside."

As others have commented I too got confused by the nicknames of the step-daughters and daughter. ( )
  hazelk | Feb 24, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, but after the ending, was disappointed that I had spent so much time with with a group of people who were almost all unpleasant or unhappy. ( )
  cherilove | Jan 19, 2014 |
A 50+ year old woman looks at her life in wonder! How did it turn out like this? She ends up a widow with 3 stepdaughters and one of her own, and looks back on her old beau, remembering they had always intended to marry after they graduated from college. Then, she up and marries Joe Davitch after a year in college. She has a chance to go back--but realizes she's fine without Joe. ( )
  camplakejewel | Oct 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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Anne Tylerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mossel, BabetTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345477243, Mass Market Paperback)

The first sentence of Anne Tyler's 15th novel sounds like something out of a fairy tale: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." Alas, this discovery has less to do with magic than with a late-middle-age crisis, which is visited upon Rebecca Davitch in the opening pages of Back When We Were Grownups. At 53, this perpetually agreeable widow is "wide and soft and dimpled, with two short wings of dry, fair hair flaring almost horizontally from a center part." Given her role as the matriarch of a large family--and the proprietress of a party-and-catering concern, the Open Arms--Rebecca is both personally and professionally inclined toward jollity. But at an engagement bash for one of her multiple stepdaughters, she finds herself questioning everything about her life: "How on earth did I get like this? How? How did I ever become this person who's not really me?"

She spends the rest of the novel attempting to answer these questions--and trying to resurrect her older, extinguished self. Should she take up the research she began back in college on Robert E. Lee's motivation for joining the Confederacy? More to the point, should she take up with her college sweetheart, who's now divorced and living within easy striking range? None of these quick fixes pans out exactly as Rebecca imagines. What she emerges with is a kind of radiant resignation, best expressed by 100-year-old Poppy on his birthday: "There is no true life. Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be." A tautology, perhaps, but Tyler's delicate, densely populated novel makes it stick.

Yes, Poppy. There are also characters named NoNo, Biddy, and Min Foo--the sort of saccharine roll call that might send many a reader scampering in the opposite direction. But Tyler knows exactly how to mingle the sweet with the sour, and in Back When We Were Grownups she manages this balancing act like the old pro she is. Even the familiar backdrop--shabby-genteel Baltimore, which resembles a virtual game preserve of Tylerian eccentrics--seems freshly observed. Can any human being really resist this novel? It is, to quote Rebecca, "a report on what it was like to be alive," and an appealingly accurate one to boot. --James Marcus

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:15 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Years after Rebecca lost her husband in a car accident she asks heself whether she is an imposter in her own life. Is she really this natural-born celebrator, joyous and outgoing. What would have happened if she had married her blond college sweetheart, Will, back when they were so young and so serious and so sure of everything? Can one ever recover the person left behind - and would one even like them?… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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