Vintage (Random House), 274 pages.
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
Rebecca Davitch was once the quiet scholarly type. One who would prefer books over socialising and parties. But here she is now in her 50’s, widowed, a professional party hostess, everybody’s ‘yes-woman’ and taking care of everybody’s comfort and hapiness but hers.
Because of a fateful dream one night, of her riding on a train with a young man who was understood to be her son (in the dream)–she gets into a nostalgic mode for days on end. First of all, she doesn’t have a son. Second, all her step-daughters and daughter were not the serious thoughtful types (as was the young man in her dream).
So she muses what her life would have been like had she stayed on and married her highschool sweetheart–Will Allenby, the thoughtful and serious type. Because she used to be just that type (studious, deep, observant), she wonders how she had turned into the person she now is.
She then tries to ‘revert’ back to her old self–from reading autobiographies to even trying to contact her highschool sweetheart.
Simple plot, complex , real and warm feelings, diverse zany family members–Back When we Were Grownups is a real Anne Tyler work. ‘A comedy of manners’, as one reviewer has put it, is Anne Tyler’s very distinct trademark.
This book is not as strong as Digging to America, but throughout the story, one could see the beginning ideas/formulation of Digging to America (Tyler’s latest novel). Mulitcultural families, a ‘welcoming’ ceremony for a newborn baby, and the idea of adopting Asian babies, dysfunctional but hopeful families.
Nevertheless, this book still has that ‘only Anne Tyler Can!’ vibe that is warm and givng.
A CBS Hallmark Special presentation of Back When we Were Grownups. Blythe Danner plays Rebecca Davitch.