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Back When We Were Grownups

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  14,453 Ratings  ·  1,222 Reviews
“A WONDERFUL NOVEL . . . Tyler’s eye and ear for familial give and take is unerring, her humanity irresistible. You’ll want to turn back to the first chapter the moment you finish the last.”
People (Page-Turner of the Week)

“STUNNING . . . ‘Once upon a time,’ the story begins, ‘there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.’ . . . With Rebecca Davitc
Audio Cassette, 0 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Random House Audio (first published 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
helen the bookowl
This book was really good because it, once again, is one of those stories that Anne Tyler is best at writing. A story about a large family with lots of dynamic going on. In this specific family, 53-year-old Rebecca has started feeling out of place and she wonders what her life would've been like if she had chosen another path.
This is a story about doubt and hope. Right from the beginning, I was screaming at Rebecca that she was romantizing the past and forgetting about all the faults she found
Aug 24, 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.
Aug 18, 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
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
Bill Khaemba
“It struck her all at once that dealing with other human beings was an awful lot of work.”

I admit that I am rarely drawn to light contemporary, I always expect the adult contemporary books I read to sort of have a darker twisted element but Anne Tyler is an exception. Her books are simply heartfelt with a realistic depiction of family and life occurrence. A Spool of Blue Thread was a book that I read at the beginning of this year and complete loved. I cared for the simple life of this one family
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
Feb 20, 2010 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
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
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
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
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
Jul 23, 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
Mar 02, 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.

Rebecca Foster
This was my fifth Tyler novel, and falls smack in the middle for me in terms of how much I enjoyed it. I’m starting to get used to her patterns: the Baltimore setting (obviously); the combination of useless males and strong, eccentric females; the splitting and blending of families; the overall sense that everything will be alright even though there’s often muted tragedy and/or being wronged in the characters’ past.

Rebecca is in her fifties and has become the pillar of the large Davitch family,
Oct 08, 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
Aug 19, 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
Aug 25, 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.
Tânia Tanocas
Nunca questionei o meu passado, nem mesmo as decisões erradas, não alterava nada, acredito que só assim é possível fazer de mim o que sou hoje, então porquê remexer no passado se não o podemos alterar? E mesmo que pudesse alterar, as consequências poderiam ser bem piores, então viveria numa constante reconstrução do passado em vez de construir o presente e o futuro.

Opinião completa aqui:
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
Aug 08, 2011 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 09, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes contemporary fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Library Book Sale
Rebecca Davitch is a fifty-three-year-old grandmother who seemingly has everything that she could possibly want in life. Ostensibly, Beck, as she is known within the Davitch clan, is a boisterous extrovert - an outgoing, joyous, natural-born celebrator who really thrives in her role as the family's official life-of-the-party. As a matter of fact, some people might say that giving parties runs in Rebecca's blood, as it became her vocation even before she finished college. Although it was a positi ...more
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
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
Dec 28, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 20, 2011 Mrsgaskell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 9-star
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

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
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #14 Back When We Were Grownups 1 2 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.” 30 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.” 15 likes
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