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Back When We Were Grownups

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  13,729 Ratings  ·  1,138 Reviews
One morning, Rebecca wakes up and realises she has turned into the wrong person. Is she really this joyous and outgoing organiser of parties, the put-upon heart of her dead husband's extended family? What happened to her quiet and serious nineteen-year-old self, and what would have happened if she'd married her college sweetheart? Can someone ever recover the person they'v ...more
Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2001)
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Mar 21, 2008 ANGELA rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can see how some would think this book doesnt live up to its potential- but i think thats the whole point and they are missing the point,as well as Anne Tyler's genius. Anne Tyler purposefully captures the lives of people who seemingly may not live up to their potential- alot of her themes are based on how in life things hardly ever turn out how we think they should- and that this is not necessarily bad or good its just the way it is...I think the beauty of this book is that Rebecca doesnt go ...more
Megan Simper
I've known for a while now that my life will turn out to be nothing like what I thought (and currently think) it will be. Being in my early twenties betrays me as merely knowing this in theory, and I'm sure several more levels of heady realization will hit me as I age. But reading this book was a valuable experience because it made me think about the fact that at some point, I will look at my life and think: "I didn't choose this," and possibly resent it. Rebecca was thrust into a lifestyle that ...more
Aug 27, 2007 Kristine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: middle-aged women who hate themselves
why did i finish this? why do i do that to myself - finish books that have no chance of improving? i bought this because it was marked down to like $5 and i have heard that anne tyler is a beautiful writer and i like the cover (trite, but i do). i didn't like the first 20 pages, so what compelled me to finish is beyond me, but i hated the characters, the characters' names (all cutesy nicknames like poppy, no no, bitsy, the non-chinese min foo, jeep, patch, etc), the protagonist, and how boring t ...more
Aug 20, 2007 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have only read about three of Anne's books, but in each case, I ended up feeling that she had delved deeply into my heart with lessons about life, loss, love, courage and joy, while making it seem almost effortless. This novel is no exception. The story of a woman who fears she has lost her true self, only to discover that she has been living the life she deserved all along, is just wonderful.
Katherine Marple
"Back When We Were Grown Ups" is my first Anne Tyler book. I received it as a gift from my sister and I immediately hated the cover. However, I opened up the book and was drawn into the character of Rebecca almost immediately. She is such a well-crafted creation. She is in her mid fifties, a widow for the past 30 years and she feels at odds against who she was long ago, and who she has become. She feels like a shadow of her former self. She feels unimportant, like a cornerstone in the family- ye ...more
Aug 21, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the reason this book has received so many negative reviews is because Anne Tyler represents life in an uncomfortable way. There is no fancy adventure, just a woman trying to live day to day with a blended family and a family business that was not even her's to start with. I have seen the lead character Rebecca described as weak. I think that causes discomfort in some readers. Some people choose to read as an escape from the day to day, and then Anne Tyler manages to adeptly make us face ...more
Aug 21, 2007 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book about a large crazy family that a woman doesn't feel a part of, but is. I don't know if I fell for it especially because I'm all the way here in Berlin so the idea of a messy family constantly stopping in to ask favors and for advice is welcome when a bit lonely and missing my own family or if it was the dream the main character has of being on a train with a beautiful son, the type that is scholarly and kind and a little unsociable and, or if it was my identification wi ...more
Aug 29, 2016 Jo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, women
I can’t figure out why I finished this book. It was actually depressing, and feels like such a waste of time now. I’d heard that Anne Tyler is a beautiful writer, and the book has a great opening line, “Once upon a time there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” Recently, I’ve been liking books with 50ish female protagonists (since I’m a 50ish female, I guess), but nothing ever happens to or, really, in her. Also I didn’t like the other characters much either. It’s b ...more
May 15, 2009 Erin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca Davitch, widowed and in her 50s, suddenly feels discontent with her life and her role as head of the eccentric Davitch clan. She has a daughter, three step-daughters, multiple grandchildren, a brother in law and a 99 year old uncle to tend to... not to mention her job running the family's event business. Rebecca wonders if she is actually happy or if she ought to change some elements of her life.

I absolutely hated this book and am stunned by some of the good reviews I see online. I kept
Jun 29, 2010 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was in high school, I read a lot of Anne Tyler novels, and with "Back When We Were Grownups," I've rediscovered my love for Anne Tyler and her tender, insightful writing about everyday subject matter.

This book begins: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person" (p. 3).

It's a beautifully written, heartwarming story about Rebecca Davitch, who broke up with her college boyfriend to marry an older, divorced man with three daughters. Now, in her 50
Probably one of the most memorable openings, "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person," I've read in a long time. Yet I didn't feel the novel lived up to the full potential of this opening sentence. I kept expecting Rebecca to go through some life changes, to be happier in the end. A new job, interest, travel, friends, love, whatever...instead she just concentrates on love--her first boyfriend Will. But the novel doesn't even continue in this direc ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Chalet rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca, the main character, tries to uncover where her real life diverged from the life she was meant to live. Six CDs later, I only wish that rather than taking up with her high school sweetheart, she'd instead torched the preciously named Open Arms for the insurance money and demanded that her ungrateful, self-absorbed children show her a little respect. There were hints of interesting storylines throughout, including some suggestion that Rebeccah's late husband's car accident might have been ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Although the term was never used, this is the story of a woman in a mid-life crisis. A widow for many years, Rebecca "suddenly" found herself facing a life she had never anticipated. Frankly, I didn't understand this part. She wanted to go back to the high school/college boyfriend she had dumped to run off and marry someone else who actually excited her. The past she wanted to reclaim was only that relationship which didn't work when she was young. She didn't seem to be seeing what kind of life ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Tina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where is this book going? I spent half the book trying to answer this question. I finally realized that this novel's central theme was based on the main characters never ending question in her head about what could have been if only (fill in the blank). It's about the choices we make and how we choose to live with them. How they define us.

Oct 23, 2009 Maia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 80s-90s
I surprised myself by enjoying this novel quite a lot more than I'd expected, since I'm not the most enthusiastic of Anne Tyler fans (or of these sorts of novels) and usually reserve them, in fact, for when I'm stuck and have nothing else at hand to read or when I'm really, really tired/stressed out and looking for a sweet, slow, comfy 'ride.'

Well, on some levels, that this is. From the first page the reader feels at home with overweight, slightly frazzled 53-year-old Rebecca, a long-time widow
Oct 08, 2011 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is the myth of a life of continuous improvement. We all know each person should be independent and strong and that everyone should have the right to fulfill their own personal desires. But those of us who have lived for a while realize how nearly impossible this is and how seldom it actually happens. Portraying that life in all its mundane glory is what this author does best.

"On the screen, Rebecca's face appeared, merry and open and sunlit, and she saw that she really had been having a wo
Sep 21, 2015 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
A pleasure to read this character study for my in-person book group. It didn't turn out how I'd hoped, but that's how life goes I guess.
Joy H.
Added 1/19/09

I FINALLY borrowed this book (published in 2001) from the library around January 2015! It's slow-going for me because I don't especially like this genre, a contemporary woman's life with all the domestic goings-on with relatives and friends. Lots of small-talk.

Seems to me that the book begins with too many characters introduced early-on during the first few pages. After a while you wonder who is who.

I also borrowed the film adaptation of this same novel on DVD from the library. http
Christine Zibas
Feb 07, 2016 Christine Zibas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anne Tyler is one of America's best storytellers. She effortlessly creates whole worlds for us that surprisingly resemble our own, with quirky characters whose questions about their lives ring true. As one reviewer aptly noted, "One does not so much read a Tyler novel as visit it." And that is certainly true for her 2001 novel, "Back When We Were Grownups."

This novel centers around the question, who are we really? This novel will particularly resound with those who've hit middle age (whatever th

Opening line: Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

The point of the book being that she hadn't turned into the wrong person, but it takes a long time to get her to that realization. The journey passes through lots of dysfunction, craziness, and extended family mayhem (that reminded me of my own crazy extended family).

I can see where this might not appeal--all the women characters have really stupid names, but I suppose it is typical of the t
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
4 Stars: Writing
3 Stars: Plot
1 Star: Characters
2.5 Stars: Overall

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person."
On that day 53 year old Rebecca Davitch wondered if she made the right decision in dropping out of college, jilting her boyfriend, and marrying a handsome older divorced man. She starts having dreams of a young boy traveling with her on a train. She assumes that this is the son that she would have had if she had married Will Allenby. She
Nov 25, 2007 Johnsergeant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audiblecom
Downloaded from

Narrator: Blair Brown
Publisher: Random House AudioBooks, 2001
Length: 9 hours

Publisher's Summary
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." So Anne Tyler opens this irresistible novel.

The woman is Rebecca Davitch, a 53-year-old grandmother. Is she an imposter in her own life? she asks herself. Is it indeed her own life? Or is it someone else's?

On the surface, Beck, as she is known, is outgoing, joyous, a natural celebr
Jun 03, 2009 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, audiobooks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 15, 2008 Bev rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-version
This is vintage Ann Tyler, with quirky characters you cannot help but grow fond of and many humorous moments amidst the everyday, ordinary events and conversations of life. As several people mentioned, this book has a fantastic opening line:

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person."

I feel that way sometimes, so I could easily relate to the main character, Rebecca (whom everyone calls "Beck" even though she does not want them to), but the story neve
Dec 26, 2008 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tyler has done better than this book. Much better. I'm a third of the way through and since I'm not banking on my finishing the book, so I'll write my review now.

First of all, the characters are less believable to me in this book than her others simply because of their names. Jeep, Patch, Ming Fu, NoNo? Are these nicknames or real names because either way, they make the characters seem fake and stupid.

Second of all, Tyler usually does an excellent job of making you interested in the little detai
Apr 10, 2008 Yvonne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a beautifully crafted book. Ann Tyler is a wonderful writer. But, her story though humane is one of melancholy and longing for things that might have been but are not. They are not because the protagonist made a life changing choice at the age of twenty and for thirty three years did not look back. Then she begins to wonder who she really is. The load of work and changing and doing the things that have to be done took over her life. At fifty three she realizes that she is a completely di ...more
Mar 28, 2008 Shauna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I'm kind of ashamed to be popping back up on the Goodreads after a hiatus with this book, which I chose among others free from a friend who moved back to Australia last fall. I think I had Annie Dillard in my head instead of Anne Tyler. Still haven't read Annie Dillard, but I'm guessing it's a big difference. Biiiiig difference.

But this is turning out to be a guilty pleasure. Woman has complicated family, is widowed, life begins anew in middle age. It's seeming more and more like I won't wa
Sep 21, 2009 Stacie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
Ugh! I tried to like this book. I tried to believe that Rebecca was going to snap out of her self/life-loathing pity and just do something. This book was character driven, but the characters left much to be desired. There really wasn't one endearing character...well, the 100-year-old uncle, Poppy, was sweet and kind of lived on the fringes imparting his old man wisdom. But, other than him, all of the women in the book were egotistical whiners.

Couldn't one of them have that moment when they reali
A passably good read, but just. Something was definitely amiss with this particular Anne Tyler novel. I usually enjoy her character-driven novels tremendously. "The Beginner's Goodbye" is one of my favorites. However, Instead of charming, infectious, embraceable and heartfelt, "Back When We Were Grownups" felt chaotic, muddled, and rushed.

I totally understood Rebecca's midlife crisis, wondering if in her young naive-years she had taken the correct "fork" in the road. Who over fifty hasn't mourn
Lynn Meinders
May 30, 2016 Lynn Meinders rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It about an unusual collection of people who make up a family, headed by a woman who at 53 thinks she is not really living her own life, and then discovers that she truly is. I listened to the audiobook and Blair Brown does a great job narrating. I enjoyed my time in the company of these people. I felt sorry for Will and kept waiting (impatiently) for Rebecca (people call her Beck, but she doesn't know why) to get a CLUE. None of those adult kids realized or appreciated what they had in their mo ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #14 Back When We Were Grownups 1 1 Feb 12, 2014 12:30PM  
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Anne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She graduated at nineteen from Duke University and went on to do graduate work in Russian studies at Columbia University. The Beginner's Goodbye is Anne Tyler's nineteenth novel; her eleventh, Breathing Lessons , was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts a ...more
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“It struck her all at once that dealing with other human beings was an awful lot of work.” 29 likes
“There is no true life. Your true life is the one you end up with, whatever it may be. You just do the best you can with what you've got.” 13 likes
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