** spoiler alert **
Anne Tyler has a wonderful talent for capturing personalities. Her middle class female characters are among the most fully understood of any writer I've read. In Back When We Were Grownups Rebecca Davitch starts to think about the other paths she might have taken over the course of her life. She starts thinking of how different she has become from the woman she was many years ago and wondering about the woman she would have been if she had taken a different fork in the road. She dreams of a son she doesn't have and wonders what that dream means. Her children are three step daughters and one blood daughter, all grown women now. Her husband died many years earlier and she now lives with her husband's uncle who is nearly 100 years old. They live upstairs in a large old house and rent out the lower section for parties. Rebecca is an excellent hostess, so the parties are generally successful even the one that is a "graduation" party for a high school girl who failed a course and didn't graduate. Back When We Were Grownups is the story of how Rebecca reaches into her past for the man she thought might have made her life different, if not better. Learning how she comes to terms with the decisions she made is well worth the read. Getting to know her unusual family is even more fun.