Carrie's Reviews > Back When We Were Grownups

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

it was amazing
Read from July 06 to 09, 2011

I think this is a perfect book for what it is. And, it isn't a book for everyone. it's a book about the insignificant, mundane choices we (and maybe i should narrow this to we "women" b/c it's from a very gendered perspective) and details of our choices that add up. The mysterious accounting of life where somehow all the nickels and pennies you have here and there end up a million dollars. Anne Tyler is so incredibly gifted at showcasing little moments, usually in dialogue, that capture changes in thinking. These are mundane moments. nothing fancy happening here (and if you want thick plot, drama, characters painted large. not for you). But, her "oh. well..." moments are so artful.

It made me think about a lot of things that felt relevant and personally timely to me. A few: how easy it is to forget crucial things about ourselves or maybe just to misplace that knowledge. sometimes we lend the knowledge to someone else who we know will do a better job of keeping track of it. And how strange it can be to hear how others see you, when it's so different from how you see yourself, and/or to reclaim a memory or experience that you've contracted out to someone else. Finally, the gendered aspect felt powerful to me. There's something that feels very true about a woman who's built an incredibly full life, suddenly doubting it all. thinking it's not really hers and losing the moments of choice, decision, doubting whether there were ever any at all. One thing to address: the names. It seems like a lot of people are annoyed b/c there's a full family of characters and all of them have nicknames like Padge, Biddie, and Min Foo. If you're someone who would be annoyed by this, this book is probably not for you. If you're someone who thinks either a) a name is a name is a name or b) there are so many weird details in families that you became immersed in so that they seem normal, like non-choices, with no traceable origins that maybe having a whole nicknamed family is a good illustration of the weird, non-chosen immersion that's invisible to the submerged but striking to those on land...then this is a book for you!

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