Back When
We Were Grownups
by Anne Tyler
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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"One upon a time there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person," begins the first line of Back When We Were Grownups.

The woman is fifty-three-year-old Rebecca "Beck" Davitch. For decades she has been the matriarch of a family she inherited when her husband passed away.

Joe Davitch was a charming older man with three young girls. His established life was attractive to young Rebecca. She dropped out of college, dumped her sweetheart and married Joe.

What Rebecca didn't realize was that when she wed Joe, she also married his family and their party-hosing business. When a new baby girl was added, Rebecca was a twenty-something mother to four little girls.

In a cruel twist of fate, Joe died leaving Rebecca a widow after only six years of marriage.

Time moved forward. The children grew. The party business was maintained to provide livable income.

Years later, while attending a family picnic, Rebecca has a prophetic moment. She asks herself How did I ever become this person who's not really me?

The question is examined in Back When We Were Grownups. Rebecca looks back in her life to the single choice that changed everything. She had expected to marry Will Allenby when she graduated from college. When she dropped everything to marry Joe, her planned life ended.

Now Rebecca finds herself wondering what would have happened if she married Will instead. Readers follow as she examines the possibilities.

Anne Tyler is a gifted author. She knows her characters and develops them well. In fact, she was so successful here that I found myself dramatically reacting to the characters in this book. I did not like them.

Rebecca is incredibly unexciting. She's spent so much time taking care of her family that she doesn't know how to take care of herself. She's spent so much time planning parties for others that she has a permanent hostess aura about her. She's been artificially happy for so long she can't even express her emotions properly.

Even the grown daughters are annoying. It's possible though that there selfish behavior may be necessary in the story for Rebecca to confront her own issues.

I fully expect lightning to strike me down for criticizing a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. However, my comments are actually compliments. Tyler's characters are so real that I actually formed a human reaction to them.

This author is known for her complex family  situations and this story includes no exception. There is a mix of biological relatives and step relatives. The Davitchs are a family of halves. Their interaction with each other is intriguing.

Even with my distaste for the characters, I am glad I read Back When We Were Grownups. Anne Tyler is a gifted author. Her work makes readers think. True, I didn't care for the Davitch family, but I can guarantee that I will be first in line to read Tyler's next book as well. also recommends:
Breathing Lessons
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler