April 23, 2009

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

BOOK #: 29
CHALLENGES: New Authors, Genre Challenge
RATING: 3.5 Stars (Mmm...That's Good)

This New York Times Bestseller tells the story of Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three-year-old widow who, in the day-to-day humdrum of her life stops to wonder if she has turned into a different person.

Rebecca was widowed when she was in her early twenties, just six years after she married a divorced dad of three girls. She and Joe had another girl and then he was killed in a car accident. Rebecca was plunged into being a single mom and stepmom at a young age. Now that her children are grown and having children of their own, Rebecca begins to contemplate what her life would be like if she had never married Joe Davitch and instead had married her high school sweetheart, whom she left to marry Joe. Joe ran a business out of the home called Open Arms, which threw parties for special occassions. Rebecca continued to run Open Arms after his death and does so during the time of the story. She watches as people celebrate birthdays, engagement parties, anniversaries, the birth of a new child, and graduations. The way Tyler weaves in the Open Arms events into the story enriches the story.

I think most people who have reached the year of their 10-year high school reunion have looked back on their life and thought, Is this where I thought I would be? How did I get here? What have I been doing for the past 10 years? What do I have to show for it? Is this even what I want to be doing?

I know that this year marks the 10-year reunion date for my high school graduation and I have asked myself these same questions. Rebecca asks herself these questions in the book and even goes out to find the high school sweetheart she snubbed because of a strange, but powerful dream she had. While I have no intention of going that far (in fact, I never had a high school sweetheart), I have gone back and thought about what my life would have been like if I had not met certain people or gone to the colleges I did or moved to Charlotte. What would my life be like if I had made different choices?

This book shows the reader what happens when Rebecca goes in search of the answers to these questions and we find out whether the grass is greener on the other side.

One quote I really liked from the book, that resonated with me now as I mourn the loss of my father, is something that Rebecca's husband's uncle, an endearing man they call Poppy (who lives with her now and she helps take care of), said as he was thinking about his late wife:

"People imagine that missing a loved one works kind of like cigarettes. The first day is really hard but the next day is less hard and so forth, easier and easier the longer you go on. But instead it's like missing water. Every day, you notice the person's absence more."


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  2. Hi Rebecca, I'm sorry about your father. I hope you're holding up.. *hug* And I really love that quote. Anne Tyler is an author I like going back to, for the resonance of reality and human struggles she tackles in her books. Are you going to read more by her? Most of her other books that I've read dealt with actions and choices made and the consequences.

  3. Life isn't always easy, is it? I read this one years ago and remember loving it. Of course, I think Anne Tyler's a great author. I didn't know you live in Charlotte - we used to live in Mint Hill.

  4. I should give Anne Tyler again. I read her once when I was in high school. It was one of her Pulitzer Prize books and I remember being bored out of my mind. It'd be really interested to see how I respond to her nearly ten years later.

    My ten year high school reunion is coming up in a couple of years. I've begun thinking about what I've done since graduated and for the most part, I'm happy. I am a bit worried about the day I turn 30, though which isn't nearly as far away as it used to be. =)

  5. Claire- Thanks. I think I will read Anne Tyler again. I don't know which I would choose to read next though.

    Bermudaonion- Actually I should have clarified. I did live in Charlotte for 3.5 years after college but moved back home in January to be closer to family. I have been to Mint Hill. Cute little town.

    J.S. Peyton- Yes, 30 for me is only months away! Ack! :)

  6. I really like Anne Tyler and this sounds like another winner. I can't imagine anyone who doesn't at some point wonder "What would life have been like if...."

  7. I'm sorry about the loss of your dad, Rebecca - the passage you chose to quote is beautiful.

    This is one of my favorite Tyler books - I loved this book and I think it was because of when I read it. Tyler has a way of touching her readers - this one touched me.

  8. Jenners- I actually know some people who ask that question but only on a surface level and never go deep enough to actually see if something needs to change. That is not helpful.

    Wendy- Thank you for your kind words. This book touched me, too.

  9. Since I hit 30, I constantly think about where I am in my life. It's hard not to. This sounds like an interesting book. I've only read on Tyler novel -- The Amateur Marriage -- and really liked it.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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