"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered that she had turned into the wrong person." So Anne Tyler opens this irresistible new novel.
The woman is Rebecca Davitch, a fifty-three-year-old grandmother. Is she an impostor 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 to the Davitch clan, is outgoing, joyous, a natural celebrator. Giving parties is, after all, her vocation—something she slipped into even before finishing college, when Joe Davitch spotted her at an engagement party in his family’s crumbling nineteenth-century Baltimore row house, where giving parties was the family business. What caught his fancy was that she seemed to be having such a wonderful time. Soon this large-spirited older man, a divorcé with three little girls, swept her into his orbit, and before she knew it she was embracing his extended family plus a child of their own, and hosting endless parties in the ornate, high-ceilinged rooms of The Open Arms.
Now, some thirty years later, after presiding over a disastrous family picnic, Rebecca is caught un-awares by the question of who she really is. How she answers it—how she tries to recover her girlhood self, that dignified grownup she had once been—is the story told in this beguiling, funny, and deeply moving novel.
As always with Anne Tyler’s novels, once we enter her world it is hard to leave. But in Back When We Were Grownups she so sharpens our perceptions and awakens so many untapped feelings that we come away not only refreshed and delighted, but also infinitely wiser.
Anne Tyler, an American novelist, is also an author of short stories and is a literary critic. She has had 22 novels published, being cited in literary publications as creating fully developed characters and commended for her accurate attention to detail. Some of her more well-known novels are: Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, and A Spool of Blue Thread. She has been compared to John Updike, Jane Austin, and Eudora Welty.
Tyler was born in Minneapolis Minnesota, as the oldest of four children to a chemist Dad and a social worker Mother. They were Quakers who lived in a series of Quaker communes, one being formed by conscientious objectors, as Anne was age 7 through 11. Her practical, hands on education was supplemented by correspondence school. Her first short stories, she told to herself under the covers at 3 years of age, to try to get sleepy. Her favorite book was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, and had a profound influence on her ability to show "how the years flowed by, people altered, and nothing could ever stay the same". Her early perception of changes over time appear and reappear in Tyler's novels, just as her favorite book, The Little House, appears in her first novel.
Tyler considered herself to be an outsider in public schools, but also attributed that same feeling as having been a valuable asset in her writing success. Her other credit is given to a former high school English teacher, Phillis Peacock. Seven years after high school, Tyler dedicated her first published novel to "Mrs. Peacock, for everything you've done".
Tyler has won many literary awards including a Pulitzer. She remains closely associated with the city of Baltimore, Maryland, her home since 1967, and is the location used in many of her books. Her husband died in 1997, and their two daughters have gone on to careers in the arts.