Saturday, April 14, 2007

Back When We Were Grownups, by Anne Tyler

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It's hard to resist this book's modest hero, Rebecca, a comfortably large woman of 53 who finds herself wondering how she got so far off the track she meant to take so long ago. She looks at her present-day self and concludes that it is a fake, of sorts, not at all who she really is.

Thus begins her gradual exploration of her past and her ruminations about how she might regain that lost self.

Rebecca turns out to be the center of a large, gregarious family, the family of her long-dead husband, and, of all things, an outgoing party planner. She inherited the position from her husband, whose family had been offering the ground floor of their row house for rent since the early 1950s. Living upstairs with her husband's elderly father, Poppy, she is surrounded by this family day and night and is constantly in the middle of one celebration or another.

Whereas she originally saw herself sequestered in hallowed halls of academia, writing important books, doing important research, and married to a similarly-inclined private person.

There are many questions left unanswered in this exploration, but the primary one, did Rebecca really take a wrong turn?, is unashamedly answered by the end. Tyler doesn't leave us hanging or dissatisfied but she does leave us thinking, just a bit, about loss, about the choices we make, about the need, now and then, to claim ourselves.


Carole said...

I enjoyed your post. We reviewed Tyler's book recently as well at Book Lovers Get Your English On (

Check it out!

Judith said...

Thanks. I will take a look at your blog!