Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

I love the title of this book.  As well as the opening line: "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." As an individual who constantly questions her life path, I loved journeying with Rebecca Davitch, a 53 year old widower and grandmother, as she tried to make sense of her past choices and recreate her life.   In many ways middle aged Rebecca is going through adolescence for the first time.

At an engagement party for one of her stepdaughters, she finds herself questioning everything about her life.  Soon she is dreaming of a blonde teenage son (she is the mother to one biological daughter and three stepdaughters) and seeking out her high school sweetheart.

Rebecca, now known as Beck, and the center of a noisy family and the proprietor of a party and catering business run from her home (the Open Arms), was formerly a studious and analytical college student on the path to pursuing a Phd in history, while her childhood boyfriend  and almost fiancee pursued one in Physics.  On a fateful day she attends an engagement party at the Open Arms and meets Joe Davitch. Suddenly she is a college dropout, stepmother to three, and major source of organization for the family business.  Six years later her husband dies and she is left alone to raise his four daughters.

This book is a wonderful examination of regret.  Middle-aged Rebecca questions her choice and wonders: how did I get here?  It is a question so many individuals ask. And many at very different stages in life.  Rebecca reconnects with her ex fiance and realizes that she has assigned rose colored glasses to the path not taken.

Overall, I found this story to be unique and compelling.  The characters were vivid with nicknames such as Min Foo, (because of her eyes; real name Minerva), and Patch.  And it left me pondering my own decisions even more than usual.

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