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Back When We Were Grownups - Anne Tyler

General Fiction

The woman is Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother. Is she an impostor in her own life? she asks herself. Is it indeed her own life? Or is it someone else's?

On the surface, Beck, as she is known to the Davitch clan, is outgoing, joyous, a natural celebrator. Giving parties is, after all, her vocation —something she slipped into even before finishing college, when Joe Davitch spotted her at an engagement party in his family's crumbling nineteenth-century Baltimore row house, where giving parties was the family business. What caught his fancy was that she seemed to be having such a wonderful time. Soon this large-spirited older man, a divorcé with three little girls, swept her into his orbit, and before she knew it she was embracing his extended family plus a child of their own, and hosting endless parties in the ornate, high-ceilinged rooms of The Open Arms


Back When We Were Grownups
Anne Tyler

Rebecca Davitch loves her family, she loves her business and she loves her town but after 33 years of being dependable and entertaining she is wondering what would have happened if she hadn’t married Joe Davitch.

   When Rebecca met Joe he was exciting, a true grownup whose wife had left him with 3 small daughters and a business organising parties in their old shambling house. Rebecca was a studious, quiet girl with a boyfriend, Will, she was to marry and a half completed history course at university. Joe swept her off her feet and into the role of instant stepmother and ever-jolly party host.

   Now 54 years old, Rebecca looks back over her life. Joe died just 6 years into their marriage leaving her with the sole control of 3 stepdaughters and 1 of her own all pining for their father and the years between have not really brought them closer together. The house needs continual repair, plaster falls from the ceiling at an alarming rate, Uncle Poppy, Rebecca’s 99 year old uncle-in-law who lives on the top floor is obsessed with his forthcoming 100th birthday party and Min Foo (aka Minerva) Rebecca and Joe’s daughter is just about to give birth to her third child from her third "exotic" marriage.

   Against this backdrop Rebecca starts to wonder what would have happened if she had never met Joe and decides to contact Will, her old boyfriend, with interesting results.

   Back When We Were Grownups couldn’t have been written by anyone but Anne Tyler, who handles peoples’ thoughts and feelings with such expertise that the characters live with you for weeks after you finish the book. There are no fireworks, no murders, no strife, no scenes just a perfect understanding of people in middle-life crisis. Someone once said that "nothing ever happens" in Anne Tyler novels and this true on the base level but you will never read more engrossing, amusing, poignant novels and Back When We Were Grownups is a classic and beautiful example of "nothing ever happening"!

Book review by Sarah Nuttall the big site