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Back When We Were Grownups
ANNE TYLER

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
278 reviews (2001) (304p)
Amazon.com Best Books

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Book Description
"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


Amazon.com Review
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


Other Award Winning Books by Anne Tyler
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
3674 reviews (2015) (368p) (Amazon Top100) (LJ More Best) (Booker) (Booklist)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
109 reviews (1988) (352p) (PP) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
89 reviews (1985) (352p) (PP) (NBCCA) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
79 reviews (1982) (336p) (PP) (NBCCA) (NBA) (PF) (NYTimes) (LATimes)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Morgan's Passing by Anne Tyler
24 reviews (1980) (352p) (NBCCA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Anne Tyler Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 10  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 5  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 1 Breathing Lessons ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 3 Breathing Lessons · Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant · The Accidental Tourist ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 The Accidental Tourist ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 3 Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant · Morgan's Passing · The Accidental Tourist ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 2 Breathing Lessons · Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 1 A Spool of Blue Thread ·  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 1 Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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