Back When We Were Grownups: A Novel Hardcover – 2001
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"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." So Anne Tyler opens this irresistible new novel. -excerpted from novel hard cover jacket
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Top Customer Reviews
My introduction to Anne Tyler came with "Accidental Tourist", and since then I rate "Saint Maybe" and "A Patchwork Planet" as two of my favorite books of all time. Tyler gets inside the heads of her male characters with alarming humor and accuracy. I am less fond of the women of "Ladder of Years" and "Breathing Lessons" -- and now, of "Back When We Were Grownups" -- although I still rate them as fine books. Perhaps, as a guy, I just can't bring enough to the table to appreciate the insights and sentiments.
"Grownups" is a bit predictable, as if it followed the same chapter outline as Tyler's last six or seven books. There they are, in all the expected places: Rebecca, the main character who feels she hasn't become the person she always wanted to be; the annoying extended family, with bizarre names (NoNo, Biddy, and Patch -- who for good measure marries a man named Jeep); Rebecca's reluctant relationship with her off-kilter ex-boyfriend; the reluctant parting of ways late in the day; and then finally Rebecca's inevitable acceptance of just who she is, warts and all.
Rebecca's a memorable character, and so are some of the other Davitch family members (especially Poppy, the centegenarian uncle). But my greatest sympathies lay with Will, Rebecca's once and future boyfriend, the insular college professor with the troubled daughter and the completely astray domestic life. There was a time when this book could have been about Will (and it was "The Accidental Tourist"). Instead, Will comes and goes, sometimes funny and sometimes poignant, and at the end of the day I almost wished the book had been about him, instead.
The book travels back through time, and Rebecca relives her past and thinks over her choices, trying to remember who she was and how she has become this woman that stares back at her from the mirror. The author has created some richly illuminated, strong, and intelligent characters. Poppy makes us realize how much joy there is in the everyday sights, sounds, and smells of living. He was by far my favorite character.
The book takes time to get going since the strong point is the development of the characters. Beautifully written she is an author with deep insight into the human spirit. The book reads like a lackadaisical trip through someone's old photo album.
First there is the problem that everyone in this book seems to be required to have some cutsie nickname. it left me begging for someone, anyone, not named something ridiculous.
Beyond the annoying names, no one in this book made me care very much what happened to them. The only character who made me rise from my torpor at all was a workman who adores his wife, but the wife is bipolar and erratic. Nonetheless, he seemed to understand and cherish her. Well, that lasted a couple of paragraphs.
The main character is dull, dull, dull. The premise--that she realizes that she has become the wrong person--is full of possibility. While I liked the occasional touch, such as the fact that her future husband gets the completely wrong first impression of her and she seems to take that mistake and run with it, most of the book just plods along.
As another reviewer here has noted, when I got to the end, I felt cheated, let down. I felt I had invested more time than the novel was worth, a feeling I have never before had when finishing a Tyler novel. The only novel of hers I ever didn't like was "Celestial Navigation", and that was because it was so terribly sad, not because it just didn't deliver, like this one.
Rebecca reminded me somewhat of the older lady the protagonist of "A Patchwork Planet" wastes his time on through much of that book. The difference is, that was one of my all-time favorites, and this was a dud. Try reading the dictionary, or better yet, the obituaries, instead.
Rebecca, the main character, is hopelessly searching for something. She flip-flops back & forth from feeling resentment towards her family to appreciating the chaotic way in which they all operate in a much unappreciative way towards her.
That's the main thing that got to me: She's a doormat to her family. Few consider her as a person. There are times where you're thinking, "Surely she's gonna let them have it now!". That would also contribute to some of the plot, but sadly- nothing.
So why two stars even? I loved poor Rebecca & felt such pity for her. I guess I had to finish the book to root her on. I also thought the premise of the story (what she was going through) was very true for so many women & found it comforting, even consoling.
So, yeah, I suppose I would say read it. Only don't expect much to happen.
This is my first book of Tyler's to read. I'll read more, as I suspect this one may not be the full extent as to the quality of her writing.
Most recent customer reviews
This was my first Anne Tyler book - now I'm hooked. I think everyone can relate to this character in one way or another. Read morePublished on June 10 2002 by Joy M. Haynes
At first, I was afraid there were too many characters and that I would not be able to remember who was who. Read morePublished on June 9 2002 by Lynn Plott
Anne Tyler had quite a bit of promotion for this book. Considering the hype and readers group info I expected a gem. Not really what happened!! Read morePublished on June 9 2002 by Beau Thurnauer
I liked this book a lot. I liked how Rebecca came to a realization in her life that maybe she wasn't who she thought she was. Read morePublished on June 4 2002 by J. Peterson
Fantastic, well-written page turner that I'd highly recommend. If I had a criticism, it's that the main love story in this book remains unresolved -- and the writing is weak around... Read morePublished on June 2 2002
Reading this book kicked off a two-week reading binge of every Anne Tyler book I could find in the local library. Read morePublished on June 1 2002 by Virginia Lore
Rebecca, 53, looks back at her life and wonders over the course it has taken. She has 4 wonderful daughters, 7 grandchildren, a mother, an aunt, and an elderly person she lives... Read morePublished on May 23 2002 by zeldesse
I have read and own every one of Anne Tyler's books and usually I love them. I didn't hate this book, but it certainly was not one of her best. Read morePublished on May 13 2002 by Fiannoula
"Back When We Were Grownups" by Anne Tyler mirrors that questioning of life that many of us experience as we meander into middle age. Read morePublished on May 11 2002 by Beverly J. Scott