Review of Back When we Were Grown Ups, a novel by Anne Tyler.
I am reviewing the paperback version of this novel, published by Vintage, a part of the Random house Group., 288 pages, ISBN 978-0099422549, cover price £6.99, genre Modern fiction.
This novel was given to me by a member of my local book swapping group. It is currently available from amazon for £6.29 new or from 0.01p used. A Kindle version is offered at £5.98.
Fifty three year old Rebecca Davitch is a widow; she is also proprietor of The Welcome Arms, a party and catering venue. At the age of nineteen, Rebecca had been a quiet, serious girl with a college sweetheart and a life mapped out for her. She had dropped everything on meeting the much older, handsome Joe Davitch, a single father of 3 daughters and she had very quickly married him. Now in her middle age, Rebecca is the driving force behind her large, extended, mainly dysfunctional, oddly named family.
As matriarch of the Davitch clan, Rebecca is nursemaid and carer for her late father-in-law's brother-in-law, Uncle Poppy. Uncle Poppy is fixated by his forthcoming 100th birthday; he wants a party to end all parties and revises his guest list on a daily basis. Rebecca also oversees the lives of her three grown up step-daughters, Patch, No-No and Biddy, her own daughter Min-Foo and the girls' various husbands, children and boyfriends past and present.
Rebecca wonders what on earth happened to her previous self and sets about trying to find her again. In the midst of her journey of rediscovery, Rebecca revisits her past, meets up with her old college boyfriend, now a divorcee with a nightmare of a daughter and organises No-no's wedding to Barry. As a result of the wedding, Rebecca also finds herself playing hostess to Tina, the mother of her step daughters. Tina had walked out on Joe Davitch when the children were little more than babies and she seems determined to woo her daughters with stories her glamorous life style. Rebecca is left feeling lonely, dowdy, frumpy and little more than a skivvy in The Welcome Arms.
Does Rebecca regain her usual bubbly character or will she pick up the pieces of her pre-Davitch family life?
No spoilers here, if my review has whetted your appetite, you'll need to read the novel to find out!
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
Back When We Were Grown Ups is an interesting look at the life and thoughts of a woman working through a mid-life crisis. I have read a few of this author's novel previously and enjoyed them.
A wealth of strong characters makes up the dysfunctional Davitch family. I felt I wanted to shake Rebecca's ungrateful step daughters and tell them to get a grip; perhaps this is testament to Ms Tyler's skills as a writer that her characters seemed so believable that I actively disliked them!
The plot is not a particularly strong one, the concept of a mid-life crisis has been done time and time again, so it is far from unique, yet I felt Anne Tyler has managed to put a twist on a tried and tested formula.
I felt I connected with lead character Rebecca and I empathised with her situation. This is possibly because she was of the same age group as me and I too have cared for an elderly, rather confused relative whilst trying to run the family home, manage everything else a grown up child and their family can throw at you!
At times I found the novel a little depressing, yet I would still recommend it as a good summer holiday or winter's afternoon read. It is very true to life and Rebecca is a typical Anne Tyler heroine, shown warts and all.
I am awarding this novel a 5* rating.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 December 2012
N.B. My reviews may be found on other sites under the same user name.
After losing her husband in a motor accident, at 53 Rebecca asks herself whether she is an imposter in her own life. Is she really the joyous and outgoing celebrator that her family think she is?