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Back When We Were Grownups

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  11,212 ratings  ·  921 reviews
The latest #1 New York Times bestseller by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Accidental Tourist is now the subject of a Hallmark Hall of Fame television film, set to air in November 2004 on CBS, starring Blythe Danner, Peter Fonda, and Faye Dunaway.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 26th 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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29th out of 295 books — 141 voters
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Community Reviews

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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
Aug 27, 2007 Kristine rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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

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
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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
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dec 28, 2010 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
I finished this book a couple months ago, and I find myself still thinking about it, about Rebecca, her life, her choices. This book was recommended to me, since my own life has some uncanny similarities.

This book is about family, and about love - love lost due to death (Rebecca's late husband), and love lost due to Rebecca "throwing it away" as she left her fiance so many years ago. It's about the love that is all around Rebecca - which is mostly family by marriage, even though her husband has
I love Anne Tyler’s books. So far I’ve read Ladder of Years, Digging to America, Breathing Lessons, and now, Back When We Were Grownups.

Rebecca “Beck” Davitch is 53 years old and reflecting on her life and the choices she made. As a young woman she jilted her longtime boyfriend to marry Joe Davitch , a divorced man with three young daughters. They later had one daughter together. Joe died in an accident not many years after they were married and Rebecca raised all four girls by herself. She is
I loved the title and the first line is definately one the draw you in and think this is going to be a great book. Rebecca is 53 years old and suddenly feels she's not living the life she's meant to live. Okay, so she's going to make changes to become the woman she ought to be to prove to the reader it's never too late, right? No.

She reconnects with her boyfriend that she left to marry Joe. All her visions are wrong about him and his daughter. They seem to disagree more than they agree. What he
This book struck me as the kind of book that I'd like even more in 25 years. It's about family, and the complicated roles we play, and the people we become as we're surrounded by people who both love us and compete with us. It was a little thin on plot, but the gist is a middle-aged woman who wonders how she became a professional party-giver when she really doesn't feel like being nice or outgoing. She became a widow early and was left with 4 girls, 3 of whom were stepchildren. And she has been ...more
emi Bevacqua
Maybe because I'm leaving today to meet family on vacation and am anticipating some sibling drama and whatnot, but this book about multi-generational bonding and bickering had me in love by sentence one: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person". I love that opening, and not to give too much away, but in the end she realizes the person she turned in to is exactly right.

The story is about Rebecca who as a college co-ed abruptly dumps her betrothed
Okay, I admit it: I'm a huge fan of Tyler, and will read her books--when in a particular mood and place--over and over. This is the second (third?) read of this book for me.

And I'm loving it!

Perhaps even more than before because as my own writing progresses and becomes increasingly more skillful, I am in awe of the delicious, humorous, warm, unique, and sad tone that Tyler seems to access with such ease and grace. How does she do it? For starters, I think she just loves her characters, feels gr
Carolyn F.
Wonderful book. Rebecca (Beck by family who don't care that she doesn't like that name) marries an older man that already has 3 kids when she's 20. 6 years later he dies in a car accident and she has to raise the 3 girls plus the one they had, take care of his mother and great uncle and take over the family party planning business although she's always been on the shy side. In her early 50's she starts to question the way her life has developed and who she has become. With a family that takes he ...more
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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 and ...more
More about Anne Tyler...
The Accidental Tourist Breathing Lessons Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant Digging to America Saint Maybe

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“It struck her all at once that dealing with other human beings was an awful lot of work.” 20 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.” 8 likes
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