Back When We Were Grownups

Back When We Were Grownups

by Anne Tyler

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Back When We Were Grownups 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
mandersj More than 1 year ago
"Back When We Were Grownups" is not a new book. It was first published in 2001, made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 2004 and just recently I happily came across it. This is Anne Tyler's 15th book, however I'd never heard of her. I'm glad I picked this book up because it really makes the reader think about what would have happened had they taken a different path with their lives than the one they ended up choosing. Rebecca is a 53-year-old mother of four daughters and many grandchildren. She runs an in-home business hosting and catering parties for people in the Baltimore area. She inherited this business from her late husband, and she's not sure she even enjoys the work any longer. She certainly realizes the house that she lives in, the same house where the parties are hosted, is getting more run down by the day and something will have to be done about it soon. When Rebecca starts having a recurring dream of spending time with a young blonde-haired boy whom she strongly feels is her son, she mentions it to one of her daughters. The daughter tells Rebecca that she must be dreaming about the other path her life could have taken, and it must have included having a son. This idea gets Rebecca thinking about the point in which her life made a dramatic turn. She was in college, dating her life-long sweetheart Will, when she attends a party. During the course of the evening, the party's host, Joe, comes up to her and asks if she's enjoying herself. Rebecca takes one look at Joe and an immediate bond forms. The fact that he is thirteen years her senior and has three young daughters, nor the fact that Rebecca has a man she plans on marrying back at school doesn't seem to matter to either of them. After a short courtship, Rebecca leaves Will abruptly and marries Joe just a few weeks later. However, Rebecca and Joe's marriage does not last long. He is killed in a car crash just six years after they marry and Rebecca is left with the party hosting business and, now, four young daughters. She manages to live life, carrying on the family business, eventually turning into the matriarch of a large, eclectic family, until one day she is fifty-three years old and dreaming of a whole other life she could have had. On a whim, she decides to hunt Will down and see where he is at in life. After a rocky start, the two decide to spend more and more time together. Although Rebecca is very busy with the business and busy trying to manage all the family members and their various needy issues, she decides she does have time to have a life of her own after so many years of only doing things for other people. The idea that everyone has a life they could have had, completely different than the one they have now is very interesting. It is an idea that I'm sure everyone can relate to. We have all made deliberate choices that have turned out great or not so great. But for Rebecca, getting a chance to go back and have a do-over is a cool idea that most people don't get to, or don't want to do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have heard good things about this author. This is the first of her books I have read. Apparently I chose the wrong one.She must be 'famous' for her other works because this story was depressing and pointless. I have never seen more boring characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first Anne Tyler book, and will probably be my last. I finished it only because I can't stand to put a book down in the middle. The main character, Rebecca, was a whiny middle-aged woman who, instead of being grateful for what she had, was constantly wondering 'what if?' Now, I know we all wonder that at times, but enough is enough. When she does finally retrace her steps, leading her back to her high school sweetheart, nothing new happens, no epiphany of what could have been. Her step-daughters and her biological daughter are some of the most annoying characters that I have ever encountered. They are hateful, unappreciative, neurotic, and self-absorbed. This story left me with the feeling that I just wanted to smack them all and tell them to get a real life!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe it's just that people in my age range can't relate w/the mid-life crisis 'drama' staged in this novel. While it flows well, it was boring. Nothing of substance seems to happen at all, no suspense, no thrills, no whitty banter. At best, it showed the difficulties of being broken up w/twice, heartache, uncomfortable situations. Yes, matriachs deserve appreciation for their efforts in maintaining some form of family harmony, but good god, could it be more mundane????? I recommend to skip it altogether. Sorry Anne, better luck next time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never been much of an Anne Tyler fan, but they keep assigning her books in reading groups. Except for the first and last chapter, this is the most interesting Tyler work that I've read so far. The last chapter, however left me so disappointed that I wondered what the point was. [The story is amply recapped in other places, so I won't repeat it.] The first chapter reminded me of 'Can this marriage be saved?'. I kept imagining a counselor talking to the family members about the need to discuss expectations and what they really wanted and needed from one another. It was certainly easy to see why finding oneself with such a collection of unpleasant relatives would make Rebecca wonder where she went wrong. I was sympathetic to her attempts to figure out how else things might have gone and might yet go. I found much of this very true and funny and read it with great interest. Unfortunately, the ending was disappointing. Tyler left a lot of ends hanging; did she intend this to be a clever expression of ambivalence or was it just sloppy writing? Rebecca has by no means exhausted her possibilities, but I don't think we are to believe that she will continue to pursue them. I THINK that the end was supposed to be a dissolution of the tensions that had driven Rebecca, but really, nothing has been resolved. It reminds me of a television episode where one is supposed to believe that three minutes of discussion reconciles thirty years of misunderstanding and they lived happily ever after.
sarahlouise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This audio is not one to listen to again and again. I'll probably pick up the book one of these days, though. Blair Brown is a great reader, but it's a melancholy story. I remember listening to this as I turned the bend on Elfinwild onto Rte 8 in Shaler.
BonnieJune54 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked the main character. She's my age, so I relate to the idea of looking around and wondering how my life became what it is. I think Anne Tyler novels are best appreciated if you only read one every years.
moonshineandrosefire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At 53, Rebecca Davitch has discovered she has become "the wrong person". No longer the serene young lady she was at 20, she has become family caretaker and cheerleader and dresses rather frumpily in her opinion. So she decides to do something about it. Now a mother, grandmother and proprietor of the family business, Rebecca decides to go back to her "roots" - her hometown in Virginia. She locates her old boyfriend whom she jilted and renews her intellectual interests. As Rebecca tries to recapture a life that might have been, the reader is shown the life that was for Rebecca at 20 years old. I loved this book - the characters really draw you in. If I had one complaint, it would be that it was a little confusing to keep all the characters straight. I give this book an A+!
ruthseeley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my favourite Anne Tyler novels. Sort of a shorter, female, better written version of Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again thematically. Don't want to spoil the plot. But I will say that in a supreme synergistic irony, I read the book just as I too was re-enacting an adolescent/early adult romance rerun. With very similar results, I must say.
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
hazy indistinct snapshot of a woman in the midst of family chaos. no real sympathy for this heroine emerges. the fact that she lets her entire brood trample all over her without the least regard tends to evoke the same tendency in me as a reader. i was plowing through without really paying attention and mainly came away feeling ambivilent about the experience as a whole.
kellynasdeo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hated this book. It felt contrived with the ridiculous names of the characters. I felt like I was reading something written by a 12 year old.
carka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
53-year-old Rebecca thinks she turns out to be someone she's not. Through the book, she thinks she was "miscast" the day she met her husband.
kppresent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
About a 53 year old woman who has an instant family and her activities with this famly. I thought it would be a book about the woman herself but it turned out to be more of the family surrounding the woman than about her. I didn't like it very much.
Dottiehaase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rebecca Davitch realizes that she has become the "wrong person." No longer the "serene and dignified young woman" she was at 20, at 53 Rebecca finds she has become family caretaker and cheerleader, a woman with a "style of dress edging dangerously close to Bag Lady." So she tries to do something about it. In the midst of her busy life as mother, grandmother and proprietor of the family business, the Open Arms (she hosts parties in the family's old Baltimore row house), Rebecca attempts to pick up the life she was leading before she married, back when she felt grownup. She visits her hometown in Virginia, locates the boyfriend she jilted and renews her intellectual interests. But as Rebecca ponders the life-that-might-have-been, the reader learns about the life-that-was. At 20, she left college and abandoned her high school sweetheart to marry a man who already had a large family to support. A year later, she had a baby of her own; five years later, her husband died in an auto accident, and she was left to raise four daughters, tend to her aging uncle-in-law and support them all. And a difficult lot they are, seldom crediting Rebecca for holding her rangy family together a family charming in their dysfunction. And much as one feels for Rebecca, much as one wants her to find love, it's difficult to imagine her leaving or upsetting the family order. Late in the novel, Rebecca observes that her younger self had wanted to believe "that there were grander motivations in history than mere family and friends, mere domestic happenstance." As Rebecca views a video of the family¿s early life, she realizes that she was happy and is left to continue her present life including the caring of a new grandchild.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I told my father I had just finished reading an Anne Tyler novel, he described exactly the plot without even knowing which title I had read: It was set in Baltimore, about a large, dysfunctional family with some eccentric quirks, and not very much happens. I realized that this was not only an apt summary of BWWWG but also every Tyler novel I have ever read. There are those writers who write one book and know they are done, and then there are those who write the same book over and over but never realize it.
camelliacorner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne captures the intensity and flavors of relationships among families, the separate conversations, the short tiffs and arguments, the happy times, the comings and goings of the members and the doubts and thoughts about where life is heading. I was unsure of the ending, it felt very unsatisfying and left a hole in the story. Had she really moved on in her life or was she still where she had started at the beginning of the novel. Will, the boyfriend from rebecca's teenage years served as a realization that back to the past was not an option, but was the future any brighter. Wa there any satisfaction with here she had eneded up?
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read enough Anne Tyler novels that I almost believe I lived in Baltimore in a previous life. As always, this one is totally captivating with unbelievably fleshed-out characters.
whirled on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Perhaps you need to be middle-aged to really get the full impact of Back When We Were Grownups. I did feel somewhat sympathetic towards the protagonist, Rebecca Davitch, who begins to question the years she has spent as a defacto matriarch, carer and general dogsbody for her long-dead husband's family. But compared to Tyler's other families, the Davitchs seemed a bit sketchy and dull.
aprille on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It grapples with the difference between who you believe yourself to be and the self you present to others, and makes a strong case that the self you present (through your actions) is actually more real. The main character perceives herself as a shy, intelligent studious girl, who married and took on a step-family who expected her to be constantly cheerful, outgoing and socially adept. After she's widowed and her family is grown, she needs to decide if that who she wants to continue to be, or if she wants to change.My favorite parts of this book were her interior dialogs about how much effort it requires to cheerfully take care of other people, and listen, and appreciate them, and yet how worthwhile it is to do it.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler has her finger on the pulse of humanity. She creates unforgettable characters that live on long after the book is finished. In this novel, Rebecca questions who she has become and how her life might have been different had she chosen a different fork in the road. As a young widow who has now grown comfortably into middle age, Rebecca is the heart and soul of her extended family, the Davitches; and becomes the heart and soul of the novel. Her journey to "the fork in the road" and back will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Wonderful book.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book starts up with this first line: Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. A book that starts like that, is a book you want to read. I've spent the week chauffeuring my father back and forth to cancer treatments, and I've heard a lot of family stories. This wonderfully quirky book is pure Anne Tyler, and one of my favorites. This must be the third time I've read it because it always puts my family, and my role in the family, back into perspective for me. A wonderful book, and a must read for anyone over the age of 50.
mzonderm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I go so hot-and-cold on Anne Tyler's books. This one, I must confess, left me feeling mostly cold. The dialogue was great, but the book didn't have much more to offer. The main character, was likable, but I didn't really care much about what happened to her, and I got annoyed by the number of times she changed her mind about how she felt and what she wanted. I think I was annoyed not because she changed her mind so much, per se, but because Tyler doesn't explain the reasons behind the changes very much, which left me frustrated.
DSlongwhite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sandy gave me this book for my birthday and I loved it. At the age of 53, Rebecca Davitch discovers she has become the wrong person. She married Joe Davitch at the age of 19. He had three young daughters. Their mother had walked out seeking a career as a singer. Within a few years, Joe died in a car accident and Rebecca is left to raise the girls and care for her husband's uncle.She cares for this people by continuing to run the business her mother-in-law started and then her husband ran - The Open Arms. It is a business that hosts parties. They own an old home in Baltimore and open the rooms for parties. Rebecca decides to contact her old boyfriend, Will Allenby. She had know Will her whole life and everyone assumed they would get married.
mhgatti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anne Tyler has officially become my sure-fire go-to novelist. If I go into the library and don¿t find anything interesting on the ¿New Arrivals¿ wall, I know I can¿t go wrong picking up one of Tyler¿s novels. Lucky for me my branch has plenty of her books.That¿s not to say that Tyler¿s writing is predictable. Yeah, most likely the book is going to center on an introspective member of a Baltimore family, but from there her books have all gone in different directions. The direction that 2001¿s Back When We Were Grownups takes is asking, ¿What if?¿Rebecca Davitch is a fifty-something ¿professional party-thrower¿ whose life has become bogged down with the problems of grown children and stepchildren, grandchildren and step-grandchildren (maybe even a step-step-grandchild?), and an aging brother- and uncle-in-law. All the while having to keep up the cheery persona expected of someone who throws parties for a living.But what if Rebecca hadn¿t dropped her boring-but-steady college beau from the good side of town for the older and more blue-collar Joe and his three daughters from his first marriage? Back then Joe¿s extended family - and the catering service they ran out of their townhouse - seemed like the more interesting future. Shortly after having their first kid together, though, Joe is killed in a car accident and forces Rebecca to take on a family, a business, and an outgoing personality that she¿s now not sure ever really fit her. What if she was never meant for this life? What if she could go back and pick the other guy?This isn¿t some complicated alternate-universe Sliding Doors/Star Trek sci-fi thing. In fact the story isn¿t very complicated at all. Tyler gently and quietly waltzes through this tale of regret and possible reinvention. Life - and its joys, demands, and traditions - continues as usual, so Rebecca¿s looking back happens as it would in real life ¿ mainly when she has time for it.Tyler¿s family storytelling is so good that the fact that so many pages are spent on daily events doesn¿t hurt the novel. The woman who won the Pulitzer for Breathing Lessons - which took place entirely during a weekend car ride - doesn¿t need to beat you over the head with the plot, instead preferring to let it seep into the everyday.That said, this was probably the Tyler novel I least enjoyed (and all that means is that it would only get four stars from me instead of a full five). The story introduces so many peculiar family members that it sometimes is hard to remember what peculiarities goes with which child. And while I don¿t think a good novel has to tie up every little loose end, this book, more than any other of Tyler¿s I¿ve read, seems to end a few pages short.These are minor complaints, though. Nothing that would stop me from picking up yet another Tyler book the next time I¿m in need of a sure-fire winner of a novel.
suejonesjohnson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am a big Anne Tyler fan and this book is full of Typical Tyler quirky characters and unconventional family members, told with pathos and tenderness.